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“As the Internet of things advances, the very notion of a clear dividing line between reality and virtual reality becomes blurred, sometimes in creative ways.” - Geoff Mulgan

Wouldn’t it be impressive if your cellular phone, an important digital appliance operated everyday, gave you a better, say smarter and a more tactile, experience?

Queen University’s Human Media Laboratory created what they’re calling ReFlex, the world’s first wireless smartphone with high resolution and full-color inbuilt into the system along with its unique feature of flexibility and passive and active haptic feedback. Now, the concept of bendable phones is not novel in that it was ideated by LG and Samsung a few years ago but the model never made it past a prototype due to technical issues. ReFlex allows for its users to heighten their level of app-interactions by a sense of touch and feel via bend movements. An implanted voice coil releases vibrations in a certain pattern that gives the sensation of force and resistance. The design is such that the ends of the phone are semi-rigid while the center remains versatile. Specifications include an LG Flexible Display OLED touchscreen running on the KitKat 4.4 OS for Android (from a C++ software) with a resolution of 720p HD, the sensors and actuators placed behind the display.

So how does it function? On bending the phone downwards to the right, pages of the e-book or magazine flip from right to left through the fingers, and this works in reverse too. Speed can also be boosted by curving it further. The simulation is believed to be advanced and realistic, and just like navigating a real book or object and perceiving its effects.

Dr. Vertegaal of the School of Computing and co-creator of ReFlex says that the gadget entitles ‘eyes-free navigation’, an attribute especially beneficial for readers while scanning their documents, be it long lists or browsing through text, with ease. There’s good news for gamers too as the flexure gives a comprehension of three-dimensionality by way of pulsing, and yes, inclusive of the thuds and snaps seen on screen!

This multitouch, bend-input smartphone, ReFlex, is indeed a promising development, although it could take another 5 years to release owing to scalability, in the world of computing, simulations and technology. The researchers plan on introducing their idea to the public at the Conference on Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) held in Netherlands, soon. If the template of this smartphone is anything to go by, it frames a perfect case of precision in connecting with and accessing virtual data in a highly pragmatic and kinesthetic manner.

Now all we can do is wait with bated breaths for ReFlex to revolutionize our daily living!

Top image: YouTube screenshot of the ReFlex phone. (YouTube)

References:

Human Media Lab (2016), http://www.hml.queensu.ca/blog/reflex, (accessed 22 Feb 2017)

Strohmeier, P. et al. (2016), ‘ReFlex: A Flexible Smartphone with Active Haptic Feedback for Bend Input’, In Proceedings of ACM TEI'16 Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, ACM Press

Dent, S. (2016), Engadget, https://www.engadget.com/2016/02/17/reflex-bendable-smartphone/, (accessed 22 Feb 2017)

Fossbytes (2016), https://fossbytes.com/reflex-worlds-first-flexible-smartphone-is-finally-here/ (accessed 23 Feb 2017)

Meghna's picture

Meghna Rao, MSc

A postgraduate in Bioscience with work experience in research and communications in the healthcare, medical and scientific domains; areas of specialization include scientific content creation, medical editing, blogging in science and biotechnology, with a fair knowledge in grant writing and scientific journalism. Also, she is passionate about travel blogging, practicing yoga, volunteering in non-profits for education. Read More

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