'ReFlex' Flexible Android Smartphone Developed, Brings 'Bend Gestures' to Apps

Researchers in Canada have developed world’s first flexible smartphone that uses bend sensors to simulate flipping of pages and playing games without even touching the display of the screen.

Researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab developed ReFlex – a full-colour and high-resolution smartphone that combines multi-touch with bend input allowing users to experience physical tactile feedback when interacting with their apps through bend gestures.

“This represents a completely new way of physical interaction with flexible smartphones,” Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University, said.

“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,” Vertegaal explained, adding: “Users can feel the sensation of the page moving through their fingertips through a detailed vibration of the phone.”

Published on EurekAlert.com, the report said the bend sensors are placed on the back of the display to sense the force with which a user bends the screen. The amount of bend is read by the sensors and is made available to apps for use as input.

ReFlex has a high definition LG Display Flexible Oled touch screen and is powered by an Android 4.4 (KitKat) with boards mounted to the sides of the display.

The smartphone also features a voice coil that allows the phone to simulate forces and friction through highly detailed vibrations of the display.

“This allows for the most accurate physical simulation of interacting with virtual data possible on a smartphone today,” Vertegaal noted.

“When a user plays the “Angry Birds” game with ReFlex, they bend the screen to stretch the sling shot. As the rubber band expands, users experience vibrations that simulate those of a real stretching rubber band. When released, the band snaps, sending a jolt through the phone and sending the bird flying across the screen,” Vertegaal said.

The researchers will unveil the ReFlex prototype at the tenth anniversary Conference on Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) – world’s premier conference on tangible human-computer interaction – in Eindhoven, The Netherlands on February 17.


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