MagicScroll tablet phone rolls up to fit in your pocket

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The MagicScroll is a tablet with a display flexible enough to roll into a cylinder.
The MagicScroll is a tablet with a display flexible enough to roll into a cylinder.
Photo: Queen’s University Human Media Lab

Forget folding displays. A group of Canadian researchers created a working prototype of a rollable tablet. The MagicScroll is intended to show that computer screens don’t have to be flat.

The biggest challenge in mobile design today is somehow making larger and larger displays fit in a pants pocket. The MagicScroll accomplishes that by rolling up into a cylinder.

“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 (HML), in a statement.

This isn’t just some college students tinkering in a closet. The HML created the Animoji that Apple included in the iPhone X.

MagicScroll thinks round not flat

The MagicScroll prototype sports a 7.5-inch touchscreen with 2K resolution. This is flexible display can be rolled or unrolled around a central, 3D-printed cylindrical body containing the processor, battery, etc.

Two wheels at either end of the cylinder allow the user to scroll through information on the touchscreen while the device is still rolled up. When a user finds something they’d like to see better, the display can be unrolled to function as a tablet.

“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.’

To be clear, this is a proof of concept, not something Dr. Vertegaal and his team intend to turn into a shipping product.

But Samsung and other companies are serious about releasing smartphones with folding displays, supposedly as soon as next year. Apple could release one in 2020. This is all part of the drive toward ever larger phone screens.