Going beyond smartphone OEMs' conceptual illustrations, the researchers took a rollable display into a practical mechanical design to experiment with the ergonomics and figure out a workable user interface. On this implementation, two rotary wheels at either end of the cylinder allow users to scroll through information on the touch screen.
When users narrow 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. The argument for a cylindrical design is that it makes it much easier to hold with one hand than an iPad. When rolled up and if designed as slim as a pen, the MagicScroll could fit a pocket and 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. Vertegaal, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction and Director of the Queen’s University Human Media Lab.
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.”
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 – 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.