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Researchers show the first ever working flexible smartphone

Researchers from Queens University have shown the first ever fully working flexible smartphone. It promises lots of new opportunities for the segment.

The ReFlex is a prototype of a possible flexible smartphone concept. The researches have used a flexible LG OLED display. It features HD 720p resolution and added bend sensor and haptic feedback motors.

The entire hardware of the phone is placed in the two black “handlebars” next to the sides of the screen. Naturally they don’t bend. Inside the grips are the motors, the motherboard, battery and all other modules.

This is a fully working smartphone. The ReFlex is running Android 4.4 which is nearly stock. We say nearly as it has added drivers and software to be able to take advantage of the flexible screen.

The video shows off some of the possibilities of using a bendable smartphone. For example an easy way to flip through pages of an ebook. Or playing games like Angry Birds. The haptic feedback motors vibrate when a page is turned or when the slingshot is stretched for launch. This makes controlling and interacting with the interface easier and simpler. In theory it should also prevent overzealous users from bending the screen too much.

According to the researchers, this type of user control also allows for “eyes-free navigation”. You should be able to use the phone easier and navigate through the menus and documents without having to pay attention to a particular scrollbar for example.

“This represents a completely new way of physical interaction with flexible smartphones” says Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing), director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University. “When this smartphone is bent down on the right, pages flip through the fingers from right to left, just like they would in a book. More extreme bends speed up the page flips. Users can feel the sensation of the page moving through their fingertips via a detailed vibration of the phone. This allows eyes-free navigation, making it easier for users to keep track of where they are in a document.”

The creators of ReFlex say the phone can be ready for the stores within five years. You can check it out in action in the video below: