The researchers say the device’s display 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. When rolled up, it can fit in your pocket and can also 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,” says Dr Roel Vertegaal, Professor of human-computer interaction and director of the Queen’s University Human Media Lab.
Beyond the flexible display, the prototype also features a camera that allows users to employ the rolled-up MagicScroll as a gesture-based control device. Additionally, its 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 example.
“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’. 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.”