Design Engineering

Queens University creates bendable scroll-like tablet

Devin Jones   

Electronics Human Media Lab Queens University

The Human Media Lab's MagicScroll prototype acts as a cell-phone and has rotary wheels for scrolling when rolled up.


Despite being a prototype, the Human Media Lab has big plans for the small device.

The Queen’s University Media Lab has unveiled what they call the MagicScroll, a flexible touch screen tablet modeled after traditional scrolls of old.

Designed as a rollable tablet, the MagicScroll is a high-resolution, 7.5” 2K resolution flexible display housed around a 3D-printed cylindrical body which contains the guts of the computer. At either end of the cylinder sit two-rotary wheels, allowing the user to scroll through information on the touch screen.

The device was created by a research team led by Dr.  Roel Vertegaal, a professor of Human-Computer Interaction and Director of the  Human Media Lab.

“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.”


Read more: Queens researchers unveil true holographic videoconferencing system

When rolled up the display shows a truncated list of contacts, for example, which can be scrolled through by using the wheels. When the user pinpoints information they’d like to explore further, the MagicScroll rolls out into a traditional tablet, and when the user is finished it rolls back up into the cylindrical casing, capable of fitting into a pants or jacket pocket. When not in use the MagicScroll can be used as phone, dictation device or as a laser pointer of sorts for powerpoints. Furthermore, the prototype has a built in camera that when rolled up, allows the device to act as a “gesture-based control device,” similar to that of the Playstation Move or Nintendo’s Wiimote.

“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,” he says.


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


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