May 9, 2016 | By Alec

The future of smartphones is here, and is called the HoloFlex. Researchers from the Canadian Queen’s University have just unveiled the world’s first 3D printed holographic flexible smartphone, which takes full advantage of its bendable screen technology and 3D imaging capacity. Not only can the Android device display objects in 3D without the need for additional headgear, but its unique imaging properties can also be used as a 3D modeling tool.

This remarkable smartphone has come out of Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab, and has just been unveiled at the ACM CHI 2016 human-computer interaction conference in San Jose, California. The Human Media Lab is known for its digital innovations, and is led by Professor Roel Vertegaal. Just earlier this year, they showcased their first flexible smartphone: the ReFlex, which was capable of mimicking the sensation of flipping through a book.

So what makes the HoloFlex so revolutionary and different? Well, its smartphone stats don’t. It is essentially powered by the same stuff as last year’s flagship smartphones, such as the LG G Flex 2 and the HTC One M9, featuring a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 2 GB of RAM, Android 5.1 and an Adreno 430 GPU.

But like its predecessor the ReFlex, it features powerful bending sensors that enables users to flex the display as an operating tool. While you and I simply press, drag and swipe on our smartphone screens, HoloFlex users can move and manipulate objects by flexing the screen. This is enabled by the ReFlex display, which is packed with bend sensors and haptic feedback and essentially creates a third input axis. Giving a gaming example in the clip below, an Angry Birds slingshot is fired by flexing the screen.

But the HoloFlex stands out from its predecessor for a revolutionary 1920x1080 full high-definition Flexible Organic Light Emitting Diode (FOLED) touchscreen display. This 3D printed microlens display actually consists of 16,000 12-pixel circles. Each circle is a tiny fisheye lens that together form a 3D object on the screen that can be viewed differently from nearly every angle. Though the final resolution is only 160 x 104 (extremely low when compared to a typical smartphone), it does allow you to inspect 3D objects from all sides simply by rotating and flexing the phone.

According to Professor Vertegaal, this combination of a unique lens array screen and bending sensors provides completely new ways of interacting with smartphones. “It allows for glasses-free interactions with 3D video and images in a way that does not encumber the user,” he says. It provides, for instance, intuitive 3D imaging options by using swiping for the x and y axes, while squeezing and bending the display enables z axis manipulation. The angle viewing possibilities provided by the 16,000 lenses, meanwhile, enable you to inspect every angle of a design.

What’s more, the Canadian researchers also believe that their smartphone solution can change the way we interact with each other over the phone. “By employing a depth camera, users can also perform holographic video conferences with one another”, says Dr. Vertegaal. “When bending the display users literally pop out of the screen and can even look around each other, with their faces rendered correctly from any angle to any onlooker”. A Skype conversation will never be the same again. A far wider range of 3D gaming solutions, as seen in the Angry Birds example, are also definite possibilities.

It’s an interesting smartphone solution that can certainly have a future in the 3D imaging and gaming industries. Provided, that is, if the resolution improves dramatically. But as pixel density technology is growing at very high rates, that shouldn’t take too long. For more info on the HoloFlex smartphone, check out the full research paper ‘HoloFlex: A Flexible Holographic Smartphone with Bend Input’.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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