Smartphones and tablets aren’t shaped like slabs because that’s ergonomic or practical to carry. They’re shaped that way because consumers want large touchscreens, and those are flat. If that weren’t the case, it’s easy to imagine a variety of more useful form factors. Such as a form factor like the cylindrical MagicScroll, which is possible thanks to a flexible touchscreen.
MagicScroll was created by a research team from the Human Media Lab at Ontario’s Queen’s University. It’s cylindrical, with a wrap-around touchscreen bookended by two knobs, and looks a bit like a cross between an ancient scroll and a Rolodex. In that state, users can interact with MagicScroll by tapping the screen like any other tablet, or by spinning the scroll wheels to quickly scan through long screens like Twitter feeds or books.
The real magic, however, is that one of the touchscreen can be detached from the body of the cylinder and unfurled. In that state, the screen still has a distinct curve to it, but it allows the user to see the full rectangular real estate of the screen in order to watch videos or play games. The idea is that you get all of the benefits of an iPad, but in a form factor that is more comfortable to hold and easier to store. This is just the first prototype, and the team hopes to eventually developed devices that can roll up as tightly as a pen.