Scientists from Queen’s University in Ontario were inspired by ancient Egyptian history when they created a rollable, touch-screen tablet called the MagicScroll. The device—which is part tablet and part smartphone—resembles a scroll and features a flexible, bendable screen that can be extended to access information.
Queen’s University Human Media Lab boasts that “this new technology is set to push the boundaries of flexible device technology into a brand new territory.”
The MagicScroll prototype includes a high-resolution, 7.5” 2K resolution flexible display. The screen can be rolled or unrolled around a 3D-printed cylindrical body that contains the tablet’s computerized inner-workings.
A user can scroll through the touch screen’s information by turning two wheels on the ends of the cylinder. The screen can be unrolled and extended and act as a typical tablet when a user finds content he or she wants to look at more carefully. Check out a video of the MagicScroll in action here.
“We were inspired by the design of ancient scrolls because their form allows for a more natural, uninterrupted experience of long visual timelines,” explained Dr. Vertegaal, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction and Director of the Queen’s University Human Media Lab.
Researchers say the MagicScroll is lightweight, and it is easier to hold than an iPad because of its cylindrical shape. Another benefit is that it’s small enough to fit into a person’s pocket (or at least will be in the future). Researchers acknowledge that the device is still “a little too big,” but it’s still a prototype.
The MagicScroll can also serve as a phone, dictation device, pointing device, or camera.
The research team was also inspired by old-school Rolodexes that contain people’s addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information. The MagicScroll “allows for infinite scroll action” and enables users to quickly browse itemized lists. To get a full-screen view, users simply have to unfold the scroll.
The MagicScroll includes a camera, which can be operated using gestures (similar to Nintendo’s ‘Wiimote’ system). The MagicScroll can also physically move or spin in place in various scenarios due to the robotic actuators in its rotary wheels.
“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,” Vertegaal noted. “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’. Whether it’s a reusable cup made of an interactive screen on which you can select your order before arriving at a coffee-filling kiosk or a display on your clothes, we’re exploring how objects can become the apps.”