Need a remote display for some kind of changing
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
of your car while the notebook is still in your briefcase
(pesumably with an iRock FM trfansmitter or something so
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
The cheap ones contain a simple one or two line display and
couple of buttons. It's powered by a rechargable battery
a solar cell (like the calculator I've had for 15 years and
put a battery in). Maybe the display only comes on when an
internal IR motion detector is triggered or a button is
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
from a nearby computer over bluetooth. Refreshing pulls in
the lines of text, and button presses correspond to the
(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
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
batteries (some D cells) that it can't be mounted with velcro
The display may drive the cost of these high enough that
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
or modulated video output to be stuck on the bezel of a
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.