Smart devices such as tablets and data phones may be at the forefront of technology in the consumer world right now, but scientists are already cooking up the next wave of innovative products that everyone will be clamoring for in the near future.
The flexi-tech revolution promises to give us gadgets that twist, bend, and fold like paper to replace the rigid, hard rectangular devices of today’s world. Imagine rolling up your iPad and carrying it under your arm like a newspaper, or looking up a 3D version of your hiking trail on your shape-shifting Galaxy phone. That’s not a dream; that’s what we have to look forward to in the near future.
Among the new materials that will make all this possible is the ultra thin and flexible Graphene. Made from a single sheet of carbon atoms, Graphene is stronger than steel, yet lightweight and flexible, explains a Chalmers press release. It’s also completely transparent, and conducts electricity, which makes it great for touchscreens. With Graphene, we can have phones that are as thin as paper, yet almost unbreakable, says The American Chemical Society. Although it is still much too expensive to use in commercial gadgets, Stuff Magazine predicts we’ll see real use of the material within the next decade. But you don’t have to wait 10 years to get your hands on Flexi-tech products. Here are some innovative products where you will see it integrated as early as this year.
1) Flexible E Ink Screens Plastic Logic, a Cambridge-based company, has developed a completely bendable e-reader. The spine is stiff, where all the electronics are stored. “Then you have two very thin, flexible pages” the company’s Rachel Litchen explains to Stuff Magazine. “In the future, devices like this could have gesture control built in, which would let you flick between pages.” The planned release for flexible E Ink screens is 2014 for black and white, and 2016 for color. Additionally, LG Electronics recently announced its plans to release its first flexible display smartphone to consumers before 2014, and is favored as the first to offer this technology to the public on a mass scale.
2) Foldable One-Screen Tablet Today’s foldable technology usually consist of two or more different parts. The new ones will feature a continuous screen with the help of the flexible OLED technology, fabric hinges and semi-flexible electronics. Both Sony and Apple are planning to release tablets utilizing this technology, although according to MarketsandMarkets analyst, Abhigyan Sengupta, phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 are likely to penetrate the market first, and some enthusiasts are already dreaming up concept designs for what the foldable device might look like. You can expect to start seeing these in 2016 – 2017.
3) Roll-up Tablets and Phones The ultimate goal is to have devices that are completely flexible and rollable. To do this, scientists will need to figure out a way to eliminate the hard silicon wafers that currently house our devices’ processors and switch to stretchable, softer bases. That process is still underway so we won’t see this technology surface until around 2020. But even though this is a while away, we’re already seeing prototypes emerging – which is definitely exciting.