Mobile device has a roll-up screen, inspired by ancient scrolls!

31 August 2018

Credit: Queen's University

A Queen’s University research team has taken a page from history – before rolling it up and creating the MagicScroll: a rollable touchscreen tablet, designed to capture the seamless flexible screen real estate of ancient scrolls in a modern-day device.

Led by bendable-screen pioneer Dr. Roel Vertegaal, professor of Human-Computer Interaction and director of the Queen’s University Human Media Lab, this new technology is set to push the boundaries of flexible device technology into a brand new territory.

The device is comprised of a high-resolution, 7.5” 2K resolution flexible display that can be rolled or unrolled around a central, 3D-printed cylindrical body that contains the device’s computerised inner-workings.

Two rotary wheels at either end of the cylinder allow the user to scroll through the on-screen content. When a user finds information of particular interest, they can examine it more deeply, by unrolling the screen – leaving them with a tablet display. Its light weight and cylindrical body makes it much easier to hold with one hand than a traditional mobile device. When rolled up, it is pocket-sized, and the technology can not only be used as a phone, but a dictation or pointing device.

Credit: Queen's University

“We were inspired by the design of ancient scrolls because their form allows for a more natural, uninterrupted experience of long visual timelines,” says Dr. Vertegaal.

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!”

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’. And 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.

Said Dr. Vertegaal: “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. 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."

Dr. Vertegaal’s Human Media Lab collaborator Juan Pablo Carrascal will be presenting MagicScroll at MobileHCI, one of the leading international conferences on Human-Computer Interaction with mobile devices and services, in Barcelona, Spain on 4th September, 2018.

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