Samsung remains a couple of generations far away from perfecting its foldable display, as evidenced by the still present crease and still fragile plastic screen protector on top. That, however, doesn’t mean it can’t fiddle with other forms of unconventional displays, sort of a rollable screen it showed off before. However, this time, it’s demonstrating a quiet replacement display that will only be described as “stretchable.” Compared to foldable and rollable, however, this stretchable OLED screen isn’t something that’s meant to be touched or felt most of the time.
Foldable displays are more often than not used totally on smartphones and tablets, making them something you hold and touch while in use. On the other hand, rollable screens are often used for things like TVs and display installations, but there have also been attempts to use them on mobile devices. So while it’s within the realm of possibility to use this 13-inch stretchable display for giant tablets, Samsung might instead be targeting TV and non-interactive installations.
That’s probably because the stretchable screen’s primary effect is more visual than tactile. “Stretchable” almost seems like putty, but anyone who has seen implementations of deformable screens will know, which will hardly be the case for this display. So it’s perhaps better to explain the screen as something which will deform its surface a touch to offer the impression of bumps and raised structures.
In the demonstration that Samsung presented at Global Tech Korea 2021, the stretchable 13-inch OLED panel displayed a video of flowing lava. Even entirely flowing water, lava’s surface is way from being flat and smooth, and mechanisms underneath the panel “push” the screen upward or outward in places where there should be raised surfaces. This provides a natural 3D appearance to the image without the necessity for stereoscopic technologies.
While you’ll probably touch the 3D bumps, it probably won’t be the most purpose of this particular screen incarnation. That said, it isn’t a stretch (pun intended) to imagine this type of stretchable display finally solving the tactile and haptic feedback problems of on-screen keyboards. Thus, within the hopefully near future, it might be possible to the touch screens to possess bumps like keys, making it feel a touch more natural to type on those displays compared to today’s flat glass screens.