Friday, October 14

Washington Post 2054, Now Arriving 2015

Some time back, yours truly wrote a review of Minority Report in which I commented specifically on the futuristic vision for the District (and Rosslyn) of tomorrow. (Ben also cited a Salon piece on the subject.) Now, in a recent Post interview, a newspaper industry insider takes on one of the gadgets heralded by the Philip K. Dick pulp adaptation:

In the scene we're interested in, a Metro passenger is reading a USA Today. It LOOKS like a USA Today in that it's a full-page newspaper (called a "broadsheet") but instead of a handful of papers, it's a paper-thin video screen, thin enough to fold up and put under your arm. Instead of static photos and text, it's constantly changing text, video and perhaps sound. Think of it as a combination paper, television and Internet, presumably wirelessly connected to a futuristic Wi-Fi, perhaps the next generation of the new Wi-Max super hotspots that are rolling out and cover several square miles instead of several square feet.

According to the CEO of E Ink, a Cambridge startup, such technology is actually only about ten years away. The company is developing "electronic ink displays" -- flexible, lightweight screens of black ink on a bright white background that are relatively cheap and consume little power. Someday E Ink displays will show up everywhere from posted bus schedules to Wal-Mart point-of-sale markers (complete with smiley-faced "falling prices" animation). And what a wonderful world it will be.