The cuttlefish is a truly amazing creature. Its entire skin surface is covered with chromatophores, which make it able to blend in to its environment with incredible precision. Some cuttlefish can actually create mesmerizing moving patterns on their skin, making them look like floating animated scoreboards out of some science fiction film.
Now HP has demonstrated a technology that duplicates this incredible trait: e-paper. It’s a thin, flexible sheet of plastic that can be cheaply produced and attached to nearly any surface, displaying up to 125 colors in a bistable passive matrix. This means the technology doesn’t use much energy, and it doesn’t get more expensive as it grows in size — unlike, say, plasma TVs, which become prohibitively expensive and energy-hogging at large sizes.
Imagine living in a world where nearly everything could be covered in HP’s e-paper. You wouldn’t put your monitor on your desk, your desk would BE your monitor. You could put family pictures in one corner, a “window” with a spectacular video display of the Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls in the other, and spread your work out over the rest of the space. Or you could put that “window” up on the wall, or even wallpaper your entire room with it, so your office could become the summit of Mount Everest, or the Board Room from The Apprentice.
The same could go for your kitchen, where you could play a cooking video on the surface of your counter while you make creme brulee, as tall sequoias sway in the breeze “outside.”
When you drive to work, the car in front of you could be programmed to display a dynamic ad customized for you based on the make of car you drove, or even address you personally after determining your identity from your license plate. While you’re shopping, ads could be automatically generated on your shopping cart based on its contents. They could even show up on the floor as you walk over it, or on the food packaging itself.
There would be no need to carry a computer or a phone or even a novel with you anywhere, because everything would be all those things: the back of the seat in front of you on the bus, the bench in the park, even the wall along the sidewalk. All you’d have to do is tap on the nearest surface and log in to your own personal computer account, where all your documents, ebooks, and software would instantly be available.
In just a few years’ time, the technology will be available to turn the entire world into a cuttlefish. The technology is ready for you. The real question is, are you ready for this technology?