Monthly Archives: June 2012

Life Imitates Art #983745345367: The Wallscreen

One of the fictional technologies we imaged for In the Shadow of Ares is the “wallscreen”, a wallpaper-like display of practically unlimited extent which interacts with the characters’ mobile agents and other computing systems. In the scene where this technology is introduced, Amber’s mother is playing an ambience video loop of a tropical beach, which her father observes is probably too realistic for healthy morale. In other scenes, smaller data windows are displayed as needed over whatever is currently used as the background.

So, imagine my surprise this afternoon when I walked past the Microsoft store at the local mall and saw a wallscreen of sorts along all three interior walls of the place, with a tropical beach video wrapped around the whole thing in correct perspective, and with small application windows floating over the video here and there?

I didn’t react quickly enough to get a photograph of it before it switched to headshots of some unkempt programmer on a plain orange and white background, but it was very impressive and almost what we had in mind. One big difference was that the screen was only about three feet high, and at eye-level on the wall, rather than being floor-to-ceiling. It was also segmented (obviously made up of a number of individual display panels about 3′ x 6′, each of which had a tiny bit of vignetting) rather than being visually seamless.

But those are really just quibbles with what is still an emerging technology. This is 2012, and we’re already seeing technology that Carl and I posited for 2051. That’s pretty cool.

RIP Ray Bradbury

Sad news: Ray Bradbury has passed away at 91.

I haven’t read anything by him in years, probably since junior high when I voraciously consumed any of his books I could get my hands on. He did however have a big influence on my subsequent science fiction interests, and is one big reason I like Twilight Zone-type material (stories with clever metaphors and unexpected and ironic twists).

The Bradbury story I remember the best is The Veldt. I remember reading it in seventh grade and being shocked at the ending, and yet still amused by the twist involved. Strangely, I’ve never read The Martian Chronicles, a failure I ought to remedy.

Bradbury is also the reason I always carry a notebook with me. I recall reading a magazine article by him when I was 9 or 10 in which he recommended this practice. (I also remember that the article was illustrated with pictures of him amidst the wreckage of the then-being-demolished Apollo launch and service structures – something that gave me some weird deja vu when I saw the dismantled LUT at KSC back in 2002.)