by Laurianne McLaughlin

Rollable Displays: Sci-Fi No More

Feb 06, 20072 mins

This past fall, CIO looked at some technologies destined to leave the world of sci-fi and enter the real world. One of them, displays that roll, will soon show up in Italy: Telecom Italia will offer the first mobile device with a rollable display later this year, using display technology from Polymer Vision. Telecom has an exclusive distribution deal in Italy for the gadget, dubbed the Cellular Book; Polymer Vision can strike similar deals elsewhere. No word on when such a device could hit the United States, or what the gadget will cost Italian shoppers.

Look at the unusual and elegant design: The rectangular device folds up into a form factor that Polymer Vision calls smaller than a typical mobile phone. Flexible displays like this device’s screen can be larger than the unit itself, because they can fold out, then fold up when you’re done using them.

Note that this display, which rolls out to five inches horizontally, does not support color, nor does it support video. Polymer says it’s working on those two capabilities for future models.

According to Telecom Italia, users will, for starters, be able to read newspapers and books on the devices (with that content to be sold via a partner’s mobile services.) The initial models will have a minimum of 4 GB of memory, cellular EDGE/UMTS functionality and a mini-USB slot for wired/wireless broadband data connection. Users can also email, download and play music, listen to audio books and podcasts, and use some location-sensitive mapping applications.

According to the company, the power-efficient display helps the gadget offer “10 days of average usage time between battery charges.” Telecom Italia will roll out the device at next week’s 3GSM World Congress trade show in Barcelona. For gadget mavens, this device offers a real peek at what rollable displays could mean for future smart phone designs.