Thinking Tech

With LED, researchers build a 'wallpaper TV'

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Surfaces, a TV prototype, makes it so that the walls inside people's homes can be used as a massive and interactive home theater.

Yesterday I reported on an innovative new spin on OLED technology, called Transparent OLED, which may  soon make see-through TVs all the rage. But elsewhere across the pond, some researchers are looking even further into the future.

One example is UK-based TV software-maker News Digital Systems' latest idea known as Surfaces, a concept that involves doing away with stand-alone devices altogether and instead turning the walls inside people's homes into a massive and elaborate interactive home theater.

Their current prototype was created by piecing together six OLED panels, similarly to wall tiling, to construct a 3.6-metre-by-1.4-metre screen. With so much screen real estate at one's disposal, the user can choose to have either a completely immersive wall-to-wall movie theater experience or opt for more of a desktop multi-tasking setup where one could open apps and video streams in separate windows. When not in use, the wall-sized screen displays reveals the natural ambient environment behind it, essentially blending in as wallpaper.

The notion of wallpaper-style TVs is made possible by organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology, particularly its ability to generate rich projection without side lighting. Without the need for bezels typically found on LCDs, screens can be arranged and re-arranged to create larger screens in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

"We will be able to make this OLED flat-panel technology tileable. And these can be any shape you like, not just rectangular arrays," Simon Parnall, vice-president of technology at NDS, told attendees at London's Future World Symposium back in April.

Naturally, a future where TV sets have become obsolete is unlikely to have old vestiges like remote controls. Paul Marks at New Scientist recently got a chance to channel-surf the NDS prototype. He writes "Kinect and systems like it could also control the NDS Surfaces, perhaps giving a greater level of control than an app."

He notes, however, that the eventual arrival of Wallpaper TV will hinge on OLEDs eventually reaching an affordable price point. While it's estimated that the first 1.4-metre OLED TVs, a collaboration between LG Electronics and Samsung of that's expected to hit the market later this year, will cost around $10,000, companies like NDS expects prices to drop to around $1,300 within five to 10 years.

Let's hope we won't have to wait that long.

(via New Scientist)

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure