Flexible Screens Herald Big Changes in the User Interface

Carl Weinschenk
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Five Innovations that Could Change the Way We Live, Work and Play

A key to success for any business person is to be flexible. Apparently, it also is for the wireless devices they carry.

 

It looks like the next big facelift for smartphones will be the ability to bend. The advantage, according to a booth demo shot at Nokia World, is that bending the display in one direction or another can supplement, and in some cases replace, actions generally done with touchscreens. The person being shot, who identifies himself inaudibly, displays the protocol Nokia Kinetic. A good example of why a bendable device would be useful is during winter, when users are likely to be wearing gloves.


NewsFactor reports that Samsung, at the same show, suggested that the company may introduce flexible screens during "early part" of 2012. Tablets, said Vice President of Investor Relations Robert Yi, will follow smartphones in incorporating the new technology.

 

CNET also offers a clip-this stuff lends itself to video-and a brief explanation of flexible screen technology, though it's a bit unclear from the text if it is, indeed, Nokia's company approach:

But Chris Bower, stationed nearby at Nokia's "Future Lounge," had some ideas. He was showing an experimental apparatus with a bundle of carbon nanotubes in a flexible elastomer medium. The electrical resistance of the nanotubes changes as they're stretched, and measurements of the change let a computer control how a map zoomed in and out. The same approach could be used to control the flexible interface.

This is exciting stuff, and the ability to keep one's mittens on when scrolling through emails is just the tip of the iceberg. This is from Tested:

The sizes and shapes of objects we're familiar with could completely change with flexible electronics--a classroom globe could allow interactive zooming, Google Earth style, with options to view political boundaries from decades or centuries ago.


The point is that display technology is changing radically. In addition to adding functionality to mobile devices, it could make electronic newspapers as foldable as, well, paper papers. Indeed, it is likely that the industry is on the cusp of an important phase in which far more complex and intuitive interactions are possible between people and their devices. In other words, the new screen technologies will lead to a new era in the art of the user interface.



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