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Bluetooth Post-Its

Cheap generic stick-on displays with minimal input capabilities
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Need a remote display for some kind of changing information? Like to see the print queue while you're standing in front of the printer? Like to see the conference room schedule from Outlook on the wall outside the conference room? Like to steer the MP3 player app in your notebook from the dashboard of your car while the notebook is still in your briefcase (pesumably with an iRock FM trfansmitter or something so you can hear it on your stereo)?

This is really a class of devices ranging from the price and complexity of a credit-card calculator to a digital picture frame. These are like "pads" or "tabs" (in the old Media Lab "Ubiquitous Computing" sense), but dumber and not necessarily portable.

The cheap ones contain a simple one or two line display and a couple of buttons. It's powered by a rechargable battery and a solar cell (like the calculator I've had for 15 years and never put a battery in). Maybe the display only comes on when an internal IR motion detector is triggered or a button is pressed to save power (no use running the display if there's nobody there looking at it).

Conceptually the device displays a tiny web page that it pulls from a nearby computer over bluetooth. Refreshing pulls in the lines of text, and button presses correspond to the input (submit) tags in the page. Actually, the device may be too dumb to parse HTML (meaning some agent on the host computer has to translate between HTML/HTTP and whatever the device needs).

You patch together whatever you want the device to display or steer with some CGI in a web server in a nearby computer. The buttons on each type of device (revealed to the web server as a cookie or something) will have a specific physical relationship to the display, so regions of the display can be used to label the buttons (bezel buttons). Bluetooth has pretty short range, so these devices may have to cooperate for all of them to reach the controlling PC.

At the higher end, the displays get bigger (maybe PDA or subnotebook sized) and are capable of displaying something like a day's conference room schedule, or a list of print jobs. These might have enough buttons to steer a simple UI (up/down/select, and maybe a number pad). These may require wired (wall bug) power or heavy enough replaceable batteries (some D cells) that it can't be mounted with velcro or adhesive. The display may drive the cost of these high enough that they can include a CPU capable of running something like a complete web browser (java, etc.). A few of these in the building may help tie in the cheaper, dumber devices that can't reach the web server on their own.

In between you might have a line-powered device with a video or modulated video output to be stuck on the bezel of a Wal- Mart TV. Instant kiosk, possibly with sound.

All of these would be far cheaper and a better form factor than any PC. They all allow you to get specific I/O to where the people are.

sdpinpdx, Aug 05 2002

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       With microcontroller costs at a few cents and IR in place of RF, the only killer on this idea is the cost of the display. I would suggest looking for "re-printable paper" or magnadoodle based displays or some other super cheap, medium resolution, slow re-fresh display.   

       Another possibility (which has been baked by MIT if I remeber correctly) is that the device itself does not HAVE a display and instead repeats its signal into your PDA or WearHUD. Part of that solution was keeping track of where YOU are by reporting which "post it" unit you are talking to.   

       Finally, as has been mentioned elsewhere... it is probably better to have the device only tackle the job of identifying a physical location and then have your own PDA, etc... go and ask a centeral server for the messages appropriate to that area. In that way, a simple IR beacon (search MIT again) can do the same job with fewer (expensive) displays.
James Newton, Aug 05 2002


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