Can we do away with a keypad and just squeeze our phones to check messages and dial contacts? [Sidhant Gupta] has been researching the idea of an electronically adjustable spring mechanism that might just make this possible. He calls the prototype above the SqueezeBlock. If you pick it up and give it a squeeze you can feel springs pushing back against your fingers, but it’s all a trick. Inside you’ll find one motor with a gear that converts the linear motion into a rotating force. Attached to the same axle as that gear are a motor and a rotary encoder. A microcontroller monitors that encoder to detect a user squeezing the two plates together, then drives the motor to vary the resistance. [Sidhant] outlines some possible uses that included stiffer resistence as unread email starts to pile up, or squeezing the device to its smallest size to turn the ringer volume all the way down.
We’re a little skeptical of this functionality in handhelds just because of the power consumption issue. But if that is somehow overcome we think this would make a pretty interesting phone feature… at least at first. Click through the link above for a video demonstration or get the details from the research presentation (PDF)