In a first, scientists have developed a rollable touch-screen tablet – taking inspiration from ancient scrolls to create a modern-day device. The device, called MagicScroll, is comprised of a high-resolution flexible display that can be rolled or unrolled around a central, 3D-printed cylindrical body containing the device’s computerised inner-workings. Two rotary wheels at either end of the cylinder allow the user to scroll through information on the touch screen. When a user narrows in on an interesting piece of content that they would like to examine more deeply, the display can be unrolled and function as a tablet display.
Its light weight and cylindrical body makes it much easier to hold with one hand than a traditional tablet. When rolled up, it fits your pocket and can be used as a phone, dictation device or pointing device. “We were inspired by the design of ancient scrolls because their form allows for a more natural, uninterrupted experience of long visual timelines,” said Roel Vertegaal, a professor at the Queen’s University in Canada. The MagicScroll’s scroll wheel allows for infinite scroll action for quick browsing through long lists. “Unfolding the scroll is a tangible experience that gives a full screen view of the selected item. Picture browsing through your Instagram timeline, messages or LinkedIn contacts this way,” Vertegaal said.
Beyond the innovative flexible display, the prototype also features a camera that allows users to employ the rolled-up MagicScroll as a gesture-based control device – similar to that of Nintendo’s ‘Wiimote’. The device’s rotary wheels contain robotic actuators that allow the device to physically move or spin in place in various scenarios, like when it receives a notification for instance. “Eventually, our hope is to design the device so that it can even roll into something as small as a pen that you could carry in your shirt pocket,” said Vertegaal.
“More broadly, the MagicScroll project is also allowing us to further examine notions that screens don’t have to be flat, and ‘anything can become a screen’,” he said.