Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell reprogramming and direct reprogramming are promising approaches for disease modeling and personalized medicine. However, these processes are yet to be optimized. Biomaterials are increasingly integrated into cell reprogramming strategies in order to engineer the microenvironment, improve reprogramming efficiency and achieve effective in situ cell reprogramming. Although there are some studies on the role of biomaterials in iPS cell reprogramming, their effect on direct cell conversion has not been fully explored. Here we review the recent advances in the use of biomaterials for iPS cell reprogramming and direct reprogramming, with a focus on the biophysical aspect. We further highlight the future challenges and directions of the field.