Technology has a way of transforming even the most boring item, such as a smartphone case, into something innovative.
Microsoft has collaborated with the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria to develop FlexCase - a smartphone case prototype that acts as a secondary touchscreen that can be flexed, tapped and twisted to control the main display.
The idea behind FlexCase is somewhat similar to the YotaPhone, the world's first smartphone with two screens. YotaPhone was developed by Russian mobile broadbrand Yota and was released in 2013. It is an Android device that has an e-ink display on the back and a regular LCD front screen.
FlexCase, meanwhile, allows users to interact with their phone in many unique ways. The cover can be used as an extended visual clipboard that makes searching and typing easier. By simply bending the cover forward or backward, users can easily flip pages, zoom in and out, navigate pages and even rotate maps.
The e-ink display of FlexCase is comparable to that of Amazon Kindle devices.The text is displayed in crisp black and white. One good thing about e-ink displays is its long battery life. They are not backlit, thus requiring very minimal power. A common complaint about e-ink displays, however, is that they don't automatically refresh unless new information needs to be displayed.
The technology behind FlexCase is known as piezoelectricity. The word "piezo" means pressure. It comes from the Greek word "piezein," which means to squeeze or press. Certain objects can generate electricity when mechanical stress or vibrations are applied.
Everyday motions can generate enough energy to be converted to electricity. The piezoelectric effect can be of use within multiple applications, including electronic frequency generation, detection and production of sound.
The same principle is applied on the FlexCase prototype. By allowing users to stretch, compress, flex, tap and twist the cover, an appropriate amount of energy is being applied that generates an electrical charge to operate the device.
The FlexCase is an ongoing research project and is scheduled to be presented at the Computer-Human Interaction conference in May. There is no announcement yet as to when the technology will be made available for the public, but check out the video below in the meantime.