We have a betting pool in our company about how soon 100-inch-diagonal flatpanel displays will be selling for less than $2,000 street price. We settled on 100 inches because it’s a traditional image size for classroom and presentation displays. A 100-inch-diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio screen is approximately five feet high, so using the four/six/eight rule, detailed text is legible up to roughly 20 feet, graphics to 30 feet, and general viewing to 40 feet. That’s large enough to satisfy the requirements for a typical 40-seat classroom, and at $2,000, affordable enough to make any projector/screen combo obsolete.
Of course there are other issues such as resolution (1080p minimum), weight (less than 100 pounds), depth (less than four inches), and of course the fact that you can’t easily roll up a flatpanel display and write on the board behind it. That last issue is still a biggie for many institutions because some instructors still like to write on boards despite the wide availability of annotation tablets and so-called “smart” boards. But as wireless technology improves, the iPad generation enters the workforce, and old habits die, this barrier will fade away as quickly as film cameras and 35mm slide projectors did a decade ago.
This potential tipping point brings up a couple of thought-provoking questions: 1.) Are there any construction projects that should NOT be planned for flat-panel emissive displays? 2.) What’s coming after that? I’ve always maintained that the most valuable contribution a pro AV designer can make to a building is not the AV system unveiled on day one; it’s the infrastructure for the systems that will be installed over the life of the building, typically up to 50 years after occupancy.
We know that 145-inch, 8K resolution displays are already being demonstrated at trade shows. We know that Quantum Dot (QD) printable display surfaces are going to start shipping soon, and now we hear that Microsoft is developing an “infinitely scalable” display technology call “vX.” Currently, the vX platform uses fifteen displays run from one PC and is planned to scale up to 24 1080p displays up to 1,300 inches. That’s a wide-screen display 65 feet tall and 86 feet wide. Even Microsoft isn’t sure what to do with a PC display that big, but I can see a day when “state-of-theart” means every lecture hall, auditorium, classroom, and conference room in a new building has walls that are nothing but screen.
Why would anyone mount a wimpy video projector, dinky 100-inch LED display, or hang enamel coated slabs of steel on walls when you could just paint the whole wall and light it up with 50 million pixels connected to a wireless tablet PC? With worldwide online learning trends like Coursera.org potentially changing the entire landscape of higher education, parents and students are not going to want to take on massive education debt to sit in antique classrooms just because there’s ivy growing on the façade, especially if they can get the same course credits for next to nothing sitting at their home computer.
Schools, colleges and universities are going to want bigger, interactive, immersive, and connected real-time environments, and instructors and presenters are going to want more surface area to display people, information, and materials to make the classroom experience more engaging and stimulating. Currently, immersive environments are wildly expensive and exceedingly complicated spaces reserved for museums, amusement parks, and advanced research facilities. But someday soon, the one or two screen presentation systems we’re installing now are going to grow up into true multimedia training “destinations.”
So yes, there’s not much obvious logic to plan for anything but flat, emissive displays in virtually any environment, no matter how large. Displays will only become bigger, brighter, cheaper, flatter, and higher res. They may even take over the entire front wall and perhaps even other surfaces in the room. As for what comes next, it’s more about what network speeds and bandwidth can support and the future of real-time and on-line learning, both of which are likely to change significantly over the next 20 years.
Brian E. Huff, LEED AP, DMC-E is an Associate Principal at Vantage Technology Consulting Group with offices in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles. He is a member of the InfoComm Sustainable Technology Environments Program (STEP) committee, and served as the moderator of the ANSI / InfoComm Standard Guide for Audiovisual Systems Design and Coordination Processes committee.