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On the Circuit

Mar 12, 2013 4:36 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart

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When my husband I moved into our first house 20 years ago, the centerpiece of our living room was the television—nothing that unusual there. It was, however, an unusually ugly TV—a mighty 2x2x2 CRT videowall cube that weighed as much as a Mini Cooper; it was scratched all over, bulging like a fly’s eye, with pointy mount corners that reached out to grab your clothing if you passed too close. I was grateful to have it since it was classier than the card table that served as my desk.

We flanked it with some beautiful cherry wood Tannoy columns and a good sub. We fed it with a decent receiver, programmed a remote, and learned the inscrutable menus. It was just like real television only uglier. After many years of service, it died with a plume of gentle smoke coming up from the back. Yes, there was actual smoke.

When we first hefted it into our living room, it was still pretty state of the art—its brothers and sisters were reliably deployed in control rooms, airports, and museums throughout the world. Today it seems as ancient as a gramophone.

This memory came up last week at Digital Signage Expo, where the aisles were filled with spectacular and elegant displays. I’m not saying that lightly. I have seen a lot of displays—almost as many as you have. Like you, I’ve seen them evolve and become attractive, flexible, and organic. I’ve seen them go from serviceable units that were defined by their limitations to architecturally acceptable, even beautiful objects. We’ve seen picture resolution and brilliance improve exponentially until you could almost agree that no additional pixels or light are really needed.

At the show there were advancements in Gorilla Glass and optical bonding (like we saw at Christie) that improve viewing angle and glare. Planar brought a new 84in. Ultra HD commercial display to compete with LG’s offering—both can be used landscape or portrait to stunning effect.

But it will not now be displays themselves that drive the future. We’ve come so very far from bulky CRT cubes. Now the game is about applications, software, and infrastructure—making, managing, and moving content. Some names to watch on that front: Four Winds Interactive, AOpen, and iAdea. Further, all the display manufacturers are working on the content chain—Samsung in particular. That’s interesting because on the phone side, Samsung is one of the masters of application, software, and infrastructure; these are the same skills that will be needed for public displays. This was the most alive Digital Signage Expo I have ever attended, maybe because we are finally ready to accept that displays are strong enough and it’s time to match them with everything else.

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