The merry band of scientists over at Microsoft Research — who apparently get paid to have fun and speak with fixed tones over videos — have put together something called FlexSense, a flat piece of bendable material loaded with sensors. You torque it, and it accepts the “deformation” input. That means it can tell how you are bending it and translates that information for the application you’re using.

On paper, ahem, that might sound dull, but FlexSense can be paired with tablets to provide users with what Microsoft calls 2.5D input. Imagine doodling a picture with multiple layers, and lifting up the corner of your FlexSense to reveal the layer below that you’re working on. Or turning pages of a digital book by bending a part of your FlexSense. Any place you can imagine flexing or bending material, FlexSense could fit.

Even playing a video game where you become a bird and you have to flap the damn thing. Pro tip: Don’t do that at the coffee spot, but at the bar I’m sure it would be welcome.

More exciting, I think, is the potential for this sort of technology to eventually be built into flexible screens themselves. Obviously, what Microsoft has built is far more research project than manufacturable good, but at the same time, it’s neat technology and a fun look into the future.

Here’s a guess: In about 10 years, our screens will bend and accept every sort of input you can imagine — voice, touch, typing, shaking and even deformation. FlexSense is a step in that direction.

H/T Tom Warren/Verge.