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Project Description
Project Team |


Horizon Scanning Centre
Institute for the Future |


Science and Technology
Work & organisation - displays, mobility, contextual displays, ambient displays, OLEDs, OLEPs, smart walls, floating augmented reality
Developments in display technology may increase the repertoire of interactions between users and digital media by increasing the number of sites for ‘ambient’ displays.
Summary Analysis:
Today, interaction with digital displays is a deskbound or device-dependent experience. However, developments in display technology may enable a new form of interaction with digital media: ‘ubiquitous computing’. In ubiquitous computing, the physical location of data and processing power is not apparent to the user. Rather, information is made available to the user in a transparent and contextually relevant manner. A single display device restricts the repertoire of interactions between the user and digital media, so ubiquitous computing requires displays wherever the user might need one – in appliances, tabletops public transport, walls, etc. ‘Ambient’ displays communicate on the periphery of human perception, requiring minimal attention and cognitive load.

Sites for ambient display technologies include:

  • Tabletop workspaces – horizontal flat displays that support multiple users moving around a common work surface
  • Smart walls – large-format screens that seamlessly display users' personal work environments over broadband wireless connections
  • Chairtop work surfaces / control pads – seating with embedded digital controls for interacting with ambient displays
  • Web signs – digital signs that are actually flexibly programmable Web displays for specific purposes
  • Public display boards – displays similar to Web signs that serve a more general function as displays for news and mobile workers’ transitory interactions as they pass by
  • Floating augmented reality – personal information artefacts eventually viewable through lightweight head-mounted displays or perhaps in the far future through direct neural connections
  • Paper-thin digital displays, e-paper, and textile displays enabled by OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) and OLEPs (organic light-emitting polymers)

In developed countries, ambient displays may appear within 5 years in high-end speciality applications. Within 10 to 20 years they may find broader worldwide consumer applications as economies of scale drive manufacturing costs down.


  • Enhanced personal productivity and greater efficiency at work
  • Closer integration of team efforts
  • More collaborative use of existing work, living, and public spaces

Early Indicators:

  • Universal Display Corporation's licencing of their OLED flexible display technology to Samsung
  • Mitsubishi Labs' prototyping of a wide range of novel ambient displays
  • Devotion of an entire issue (March 2005) of the Journal of the Communications of the ACM to applications and technologies of 'the disappearing computer'
  • The Fraunhofer Institute's research on 'roomware®' ('computer-augmented room elements like doors, walls, furniture with integrated information and communication technology')
  • UC Berkeley's formation of the Ambient Display Research Group to explore human factors of ambient displays
  • Shipment of about 31 million OLED panels in 2004, double the number shipped in 2003, according to the market research firm DisplaySearch

What to Watch:

  • New display technologies and new applications are demonstrated at annual conferences such as SIGCHI (the conference of the ACM's Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction) and SIGGRAPH, the International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.
  • OLED display shipments double and triple as OLEDs take even more market share for MP3 players and as main displays in mobile phones.


  • Development and dissemination of LCD technology


  • Decrease in OLED manufacturing costs
  • Introduction of new flat screen form factors
  • Adoption by consumers of new applications


  • Universal Display Corporation (development of an OLED flexible display technology, licenced to Samsung) [link]
  • Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (prototyping of a wide range of novel ambient displays) [link]
  • Fraunhofer Institute (roomware® research) [link]
  • Ambient Display Research Group, UC Berkeley (exploration of human factors of ambient displays) [link]
  • Cambridge Display Technology [link]
  • LG [link]
  • University of Lancaster [link]
  • Intel, Cambridge Lab (UK) [link]
  • Brunel University [link]
  • University of Glasgow [link]
  • Information and Communications University, Korea [link]



  • "OLED Marketplace." Universal Display Corporation. [link]
  • "Off the Desktop Interaction and Display." Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories. [link]
  • Journal of the Communications of the ACM. March 2005. [link]
  • "Ambient Displays: Turning Architectural Space into an Interface." MIT. [link]
  • Kallender, Paul, and Dan Nystedt. "Future looking bright for OLED displays." ComputerWorld Singapore 22 April 2005. [link]
  • "TVs Seen 5 Years Away From Market as LCDs, Plasma Dominate." Consumer Electronics Daily 25 May 2005.
  • Mark Weisner, 1993 The world is not a desktop [link]
  • Wikipedia page on ubiquitous computing [link]
  • Guy Kewney, LG "will persist" with Smart Display even after Microsoft drops it, The Register 8 January 2004, [link]
  • Paul Anderson, Advanced Display Technologies, JISC [link]
  • Han Cao et al, Enhancing Privacy in Public Spaces through Crossmodal Displays [link]
  • Gerd Kortuem and Christian Kray, HCI Issues of Dispersed Public Displays [link]

At A Glance:
11–20 years
How Fast:

Related Outlooks:

About this outlook: An outlook is an internally consistent, plausible view of the future based on the best expertise available. It is not a prediction of the future. The AT-A-GLANCE ratings suggest the scope, scale, and uncertainty associated with this outlook. Each outlook is also a working document, with contributors adding comments and edits to improve the forecast over time. Please see the revision history for earlier versions.

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