The House Of 1000 Windows

Perhaps the rate of technological change is indeed accelerating. One can’t even make a few outlandish predictions any more (as I did on this blog last week) without being passed on the right by actual events. Take the past week’s CES:

On the subject of 3D TVs, I’ll just note that the world’s software developers will have to learn how to write 3D user interfaces. It can only be a matter of time until 3D displays show up as PC monitors. It’s cute and impressive and all that, but not transformational.

But there were several items of major news that are transformational from the perspective of this blog:

  1. Intel announced what’s essentially a new monitor cable standard, except without a cable. Called WiDi, it enables PCs to send their graphics to displays wirelessly. White not many details are available yet, according to CNET, the first enabled systems are supposed to show up in stores next week! They are building it into the standard Intel chip sets starting this year, so wide distribution is virtually assured. Netgear is already selling a HDMI-output bridge box which allows any TV to become a receiver. So by the end of this month, theoretically we should all be able to use any display in the house as a PC monitor, wirelessly. This technology will be a major enabler for the vision I outlined in the last post. It’s coming a earlier than I thought. I hope it isn’t just for video, but for all kinds of PC graphics.
  2. Skype announced a push to have TV manufacturers embed Skype directly in TVs, no PC required. LG and Panasonic have already signed up. Note this is competitive, in a way, with WiDi, because it will give me a choice to display Skype videoconferences via my PC and WiDi, or with the Skype client built into my TV. (That’s a new kind of competition.) But most interestingly, they will modify their TVs to also include a camera and intelligent microphones, so audio quality is good enough when people move about the room.
  3. Microsoft’s “Natal” add-on for Xbox will essentially give the Xbox a Wii controller — except, without the controller. It accomplishes this by using a camera and audio processing that together essentially can tell what is going on in front of the display.

If we add these things together, what do we get?

  • Displays of the future will have microphones and cameras built-in, so they will not only show us stuff, but they will also look at us, and observe us what we do.
  • Not only will all the picture frames in the house becomes dynamic displays, they will be connected to each other in various ways, including to the PCs and laptops (and mobile devices) in the house, using bidirectional data streams.
  • Add 3D, and the (moving) picture on the wall becomes a 3D “window” to look out of, and through which others (via the cameras and microphones) look in.

I’m feeling like my house just had its walls torn down. And I’ll get (looking at the positive side) an all-knowing butler that watches every single move I make, serving whatever information is best for me at that time right in front of me. (Let’s ignore the scary side for today…)