Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Flexible Fabric Screen

Posted on | September 23, 2015 | No Comments

As touch screens are becoming more flexible, durable, and responsive, I think that one way the future of screen technology may evolve is into completely malleable and mouldable screens. I imagine these screens to be made of a fabric-like material which would be both durable and extremely flexible while also allowing images to be displayed upon it. Ideally, this material would be soft and thin, able to become transparent or translucent as required. This material should also be mouldable in that it can be made into a shape and it can retain its shape until “reset.”

I imagine this kind of screen to be used in classrooms to allow young children to play and learn in exciting ways. Children could play games with on-screen characters, or with their friends standing on the other side of it, like a curtain. They would interact with the screen not just by tapping it, but also by pushing it, pulling it, and even sculpting it. The children would be able to sculpt this fabric screen into different shapes, like animals or even models of cities and see their creations “projected” onto the object. The word “projected” here is misleading, however, as due to the flexible and malleable nature of this fabric, anything projected onto it would quickly lose shape and distort. Instead, I imagine this fabric as being able to project light out from itself so that the image actually comes from the screen itself. Although I am unsure how this would be achieved, it is possible that the future of nanotechnology or fiber-optics could meet this need.

Along with its remarkable flexibility and shape-holding properties, this fabric-like screen would also have to be interactive and respond to the children’s input. This input may not only be tactile, but could also include tracking and reacting to the children’s movements and voice commands. Perhaps this fabric could also change feeling and consistency depending on how it is used (for example, it could become rough and stone-like if being used to model a cave wall) so the users can get a fuller sensory experience.

Another way this material could be used is as a curtain to cover the walls, ceiling, and floors of a classroom or other designated space to create the illusion that the children have entered into an entirely new space. This can be thought of as a sort of virtual reality, but without head-mounted displays, allowing for a more open, communal experience. Teachers could use this to show children life in the ocean, or deserted landscapes of other planets, or the inside of a medieval castle, to name a few examples. The possibilities for teaching and learning are endless.

The biggest challenge with this screen is simply the technology and also the cost. Even if we could create the right kind of material, and imbue it with optic technology allowing it to display images from within itself, we would also have to ensure that ordinary schools could afford large enough quantities of the fabric to cover an entire room.


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