Within the next few years, active screens are going to be mounted on the walls of most households. We’ll use them for entertainment, we’ll use them for information, but most of all, we’ll use them to communicate without words.
Many households will have those 30-inch to 60-inch plasma displays – screens that are dropping in price and turning up on the walls of more and more family rooms. While today’s screens are great for watching television and DVDs, I expect that in the not-too-distant future, many will be showing family photos and even video feeds from romantic locations when they are not otherwise occupied. Why look at a blank screen when you can gaze at a lifetime’s worth of snapshots of your children or shots of your upcoming vacation destination in Bali?
I envision that, in the kitchen or near the front door, the favored screens will be 20-inch, high-resolution liquid-crystal displays with built-in Wi-Fi adaptors. These information-rich appliances could display things like weather predictions and traffic reports when you are heading out in the morning, then tastefully switch to great works of art to greet your eyes when you arrive home.
Granted, there is no application that I foresee for these wall-mounted screens that wouldn’t work on a desktop computer today. But the advantage of intelligent screens is that they would always be ready and stocked with the information you need. The simplicity of just glancing at the wall will win out over the complexity of desktop computing.
I have had a primitive version of such a “smart screen” on my wall for four years now: it’s one of those moving-message LED signs, which I rigged to display news clippings from CNN and the Weather Channel. The reports are incredibly useful: I catch news out of the corner of my eye that I simply would have missed if I had been forced to fiddle with a Web browser.
A more sophisticated smart screen is Visart’s Album TV, which I had hanging on my kitchen wall this past fall. This piece of techno wizardry, which looks like an oversized picture frame, lets you watch TV as well as play DVDs and CDs on its built-in drive. But what’s really different about the Album TV is that it also has a reader that will show photographs or movies stored in any of the popular flash memory formats. It’s surprisingly more enjoyable to view your digital camera’s photos in an attractive frame on the wall than on a desktop screen. Visart sells screens in a variety of sizes; the 18-inch version I tested goes for $995.