Samsung patents artificial muscle for flexible phones

Will bendable displays lure consumers, or are they just a gimmick?

Samsung has filed two patents for an "artificial muscle" system which will allow smartphones to bend in a variety of shapes without becoming damaged.

Samsung has filed two patents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As reported by Korea News, the first patent describes a flexible display panel which contains a set of flexible components described as "a support member provided between the display panel and the image processing board and at least one artificial muscle connecting at least two plates".

The "muscle" is a set of small connected plates set in a matrix structure which uses sensors to respond when the device is bent. The muscle will then move with the force, shifting the device's components in the correct way to allow movement without damage occurring.

The second patent, filed last month, is for a display panel separated into two main sections -- a bottom and top area -- which together with the artificial muscle could be flexed in different ways.

The idea of bendable smartphones is an interesting one. There's no way of knowing whether Samsung will push ahead and design a consumer-based flexible smartphone in the future, but as noted by Computerworld, the company has been working on the technology for over four years under the name "Project Valley".

The Galaxy Round, featuring a flexible OLED display, was revealed in 2013.

Samsung is far from the only company researching flexible electronics. Apple has been awarded a number of patents relating to flexible mobile devices and circuits, and last year, LG launched a smartphone, the G Flex 2, which could be bent to a certain degree.

It will be interesting to see if the novelty factor will draw in future consumers, or whether flexible devices will fall flat. Either way, tech giants are pouring investment into the technology -- and it simply remains to be seen as to whether flexible smartphones and tablets are considered valuable, or whether it is simply an attempt made by companies to distinguish themselves in a congested mobile device industry.