Back in ancient times, before the Internet was a thing and touchscreen devices dominated the landscape, people read newspapers made from wood pulp (and other ingredients). You could roll it up and tuck it under your arm. Touchscreen tablets don’t afford the same level of convenience, but that might change. Researchers at a Queen’s University in Ontario have developed a rollable touchscreen tablet that looks like a modern day scroll.
The research team is led by Dr. Roel Vertegaal, a professor of human-computer interaction (HCI) at Queen’s University’s School of Computing, and a pioneer in bendable screens. What he and his team built is a 7.5-inch flexible display with a 2K resolution. It’s called MagicScroll. Vertegaal says there was a specific reason the team focused on a scroll-like form factor.
“We were inspired by the design of ancient scrolls because their form allows for a more natural, uninterrupted experience of long visual timelines,” Dr. Vertegaal says. “Another source of inspiration was the old Rolodex filing systems that were used to store and browse contact cards. 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!”
It’s an interesting concept, for sure. The screen is wrapped around a cylindrical frame with rotary wheels on each end. Turning the wheels allows the user to scroll through information on the display. If the user encounters something of interest, the display can be unrolled like a traditional tablet.
MagicScroll is light in weight. Combined with its scroll-like form factor, it’s easier to hold in one hand compared to an iPad or traditional Android tablet. And when rolled up, it can be jammed into a pocket or used in a variety of ways—a phone, dictation device, or a pointing device.
“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,” says Dr. 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’.
Vertegaal didn’t offer a deep dive in MagicScroll’s specs, though he did say the prototype features a camera. This enables the rollable tablet to function a gesture-based control device, with Vertegaal likening it a Wii Remote.
Would someone actually want something like this, though? We’re not sure there’s a big market for a rollable tablet as implemented in this prototype. Nevertheless, it’s a neat (and definitely unique) concept.
Thumbnail/All Images Source: Human Media Lab