News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Displaying Strange New Realities


The 19-inch LCD monitor in my home has become small compared to the two 23-inch LCD monitors I use at work. A few of my colleagues have one 23-inch and one 30-inch high definition LCD on their desks. With larger monitors comes superior video entertainment, more real estate for more open programs, and relief for tasks that are rather confined. These improvements are not, of course, the end of the story. The technological progress that has held my rapt attention for the past ten years has taught me that making current tasks more efficient and easier on the eye are just first order effects. Most significant are the unanticipated tasks that improved technologies will allow, tasks that often replace a host of previous tasks and provide new ways for interacting with data.

The increase in display size will reach a point where the keyboard and mouse simply do not make sense anymore. 3-D, voice and haptic user interfaces will arise to deal with all that display real estate. In doing so, the software programs we use will change, and, in a parallel we should now recognize, will be rapidly replaced by brand new software programs that accomplish old and new tasks in more efficient and higher level ways.

What does it mean to have a display the size of your wall? Do you sit up close or farther away? Can you contain the entire view in a single glance or must you make use of your periphery and more complicated head movements? To interact with the display will you want to sit as you do today with a mouse and keyboard, or will you stand and interact with body motions? How will your brain deal with both visual content from material reality and superimposed yet photorealistic cyberscapes on every surface that can act as a display?

Now image that all of these surfaces suddenly gain what seems to be infinite depth. This is no linear rise in display real estate. As we move away from 2-D representations of data and increasingly view 3-D representations through time, we enter a world no human brain has ever encountered, brought to us by the competitive forces that compel companies to produce larger and larger displays. There is currently no monitor available or planned that will allow us to even capture a glimpse of that strange new reality.

Image Credit: Sharp Electronics – “65-inch photo2”, Samsung Electronics (South Korea) – “0104_OLEDTV_view”

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