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David Zax

A View from David Zax

Samsung's Smart Window

Part-window, part-touch screen. Cue the Minority Report references.

  • January 20, 2012

A “smart window” from Samsung took away the award for innovation at CES this year. What’s a smart window, and why do you need one right away?

There’s a bit of uncertainty around the term, it seems. When we introduced to you “smart windows” from Soladigm in August of 2010, we were referring to “tunable” windows that ran an electric current to adjust the amount of light that was let in. Here was a smart window like a smart meter, designed to save energy.

Samsung’s concept of a smart window is very different: basically, it would turn your window into something a lot more like an iPad. If windows and touchs creens had offspring, Samsung’s product would be it. The inevitable references to Minority Report abound.

The device is really a transparent touch screen LCD that can be fitted to any window, so long as it’s no longer than some 46 inches. Resolution is 1366 x 768 pixels, reportedly. During the day, illumination is provided from outside. At night, built-in lights kick in. A video from Samsung video gives a nice overview:

At first glance, the window, while cool, isn’t necessarily innovative: it just brings all the apps and widgets we’ve come to love to your window. But Samsung has included a few unique touches. My favorite is the “blinds” feature, where with the swipe of your finger, you can open and close virtual blinds that will actually blot out the light. 

A video report from MobileNations says that mass production will begin “in the coming months.” Samsung has indicated an intention to put the thing out by the end of the year. No word on price yet.

Aren’t there privacy concerns, as windows become devices for browsing, tweeting, and watching TV? Samsung assures that your neighbors won’t be able to see what you’re doing; the glass works like a one-way mirror when viewed from the outside.

Here’s the main problem with Samsung’s “smart window” concept, though: touch screens, as Steve Jobs said, “don’t want to be vertical”—holding your arm out to fiddle with them just plain doesn’t feel nice, as I addressed in a post earlier in the week. Does that mean the only suitable market for a Samsung smart window is a glass-bottom boat?

Maybe the “smarter” windows are Soladigm’s after all.

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