Innovation in the electronics industry is often claimed, but rarely implemented. So when Displace told me it was making a wildly innovative smart TV, I took the statement with a grain of salt.
But damn if they haven’t described to me at least five innovations I’ve never experienced in a TV. And in a couple of cases, these are concepts I’ve never even contemplated, at least not on a TV. While the underlying technology is far from new — the 55-inch, 20-pound 4K TV is based on an OLED panel from LG — Displace promises features no TV maker has ever brought to market.
Well I should say ha promised bring to market. We don’t know when this TV will go on sale or how much it will cost.
Displace TV promises true innovation
Most surprisingly, the new Displace TVs will be entirely wireless. Not mostly wireless, as in Samsung’s OneConnect box, which uses a thin fiber optic cable to carry both audio-video signals and power to the panel. We’re talking wireless as if they were entirely battery powered, with A/V signals transmitted over Wi-Fi. And Displace claims that a full charge will yield a full month of use, based on six hours of viewing per day.
The next eyebrow-raising feature is related to how the TV is mounted to the wall: with suction cups or something. While I haven’t seen it in action, Displace founder and CEO Balaji Krishnan describes it as similar to the way a dash cam attaches to the windshield or a shower mount to the wall. Displace’s technology, however, is powered by the same batteries that run everything else. Given a smooth enough surface, Krishnan says, just press the TV against the wall and it will stick there.
Having had a myriad of shower trays eventually lose their vacuum and fall over, I was immediately beset by visions of disaster. Sensing my dismay, Krishnan described a security system built into the TV: I’m not kidding: This TV has airbags.
One piece of tape will trigger the airbags when stretched or snapped, and a second sensor will trigger them if it senses negative gravity, much like a free-fall sensor will protect a dropped hard drive. At least that’s my guess about this last feature, which Krishman described as “traditional.”
Those two concepts alone make what some of Displace TV’s other innovations seem almost mundane in comparison. First, you can send wireless streams from a single Wi-Fi 6e-powered box to multiple TVs. Second, Displace TV is modular, meaning you can snap multiple panels together to create a much larger display. Who wants a 220 inch TV?! We have seen the latter in the demonstrations–Sony Crystal LEDsfor example, e The Samsung Wall—but not in the TVs the average Joe might consider deploying in the living room.
Displace claims you’ll also be able to treat physically adjacent displays as discrete screens and watch different feeds from the base station on each one. Remember more tuners and picture-in-picture modes? They are coming back. And 30-inch models are also in the works, which will be better suited to smaller spaces.
Sending multiple high-resolution video streams over your Wi-Fi network will consume a lot of bandwidth, but a Wi-Fi 6e router and high-speed broadband connection should be able to provide this with ease. As far as we know, Displace TV’s base unit won’t have an over-the-air TV tuner or host cable or satellite TV connections, but we know it has a Linux-based operating system, so those features could be added if the company deems it appropriate. Displace hasn’t provided us with an image of the base unit, and we haven’t seen any of this hardware in person; for that, we’ll have to wait until CES in January.
There’s one unique feature of Displace TV that I’m initially skeptical about: the TV won’t have a physical remote. Instead, you’ll control the set with hand gestures and/or voice commands. Gesture control will, of course, depend on a camera perched above the TV, but Displace says this component can slip out of sight if you’re concerned about privacy.
Displace TV is fascinating and perhaps revolutionary
Personally, I couldn’t care less about eliminating a power cord or suction cup mount. These things might be super smart, sexy, and probably very cool to have, but ultimately they’re of marginal interest in terms of TV viewing. Multiple wireless feeds and modularity, on the other hand, I really like. You will be able to watch several matches without changing the channel!
But the only “feature” that makes me think is the absence of a remote control. I’ve used all kinds of touch, gesture, and voice control technology, and sometimes I just want to keep one arm by my side, keep quiet, and press a couple of buttons.