Monday, April 10, 2006

RE: Buying a Digital Table for My Home

A question from Rainer Schuller

[ Rainer ] I´m a huge fan of RTS Games and just saw ur W3 Video. First of all: Wonderful Idea! Really love it! I would be very interested what your opinion is about the release date and the approximate cost of such a Command Panel?

[ Ed ] Large display touch technologies are already available from commercial companies such as Mitsubishi and SMART. Currently, these input technologies are expensive ($9 - $20K USD) but their price will no doubt drop with time, remember that you can get portable computers today as powerful as computers 30 years ago that were the size of large rooms and would easily cost millions of dollars. Realize that these prices have already dropped about $10'000 USD over the past 5 years and are expected to continue to drop for many years to come.

Bill Buxton has stated in an interview that "What is going to happen In the next five to seven years is very high resolution displays, that is as many pixels per inch on the display as you have on your laptop screen. They are going to be cheaper and thinner, but cheaper per square foot than the whiteboards that are on your walls today. I repeat, to get a really, really, really high resolution large display the size of the whiteboard in your classroom or your office is going to be cheaper than the whiteboard that you have there currently. And it’s going to be 6 mm thick. That’s a little bit thicker than a piece of paper and it’s going to cost around $10 a square foot. And it’s going to transform completely how we think about information and information displays and how we interact with them."

When asked who is doing that now Bill responds: "There are a number of companies, none of them Canadian, doing the basic technology. Phillips is doing a lot. Some of the core technology is being done in Cambridge England by company called Cambridge Display Technologies. So there’s a lot of materials, it’s very expensive stuff. There’s a lot of cooperation with companies like Sharp and Mitsubishi and other companies in Japan. But I don’t care about the technology, I just know it’s coming. The question is, who is going to be smart enough to know what to do with it once it arrives? And that’s where there is an Alberta company called Smart Technologies in Calgary which is the world leader in electronic whiteboards."

Bill is probably right, we should expect to see stuff like this in homes within the 5-7 year mark at incredibly affordable prices. However, in order for such technology to succeed, there needs to be advances in display hardware, input hardware and large display interaction software. My research is specifically targeted at the software domain.

Hopefully all of these things will come together and you'll be able to enjoy tabletop games and applications in your home in the near future. From the science fiction author William Gibson "The future is already here - it's just not uniformly distributed."

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