Bill Buxton prediction on cheap ubiquitous displays

Bill Buxton gave the closing plenary talk at this year’s Computer Supported Collaborative Work conference this year, and bet everyone a drink that in seven years:

…it will be as cheap to buy, per square foot, to buy 100 dpi full-color displays as the same square-footage of whiteboard today. In 7 years, displays with on the order of 20 times more pixels than are on that screen right now [pointing to a 15′ x 15′ projector screen] but the same size will be cheaper than that screen is right now without the projector. It’s going to be about one to ten dollars a square foot for a 100 dpi full-color display that’s 6mm thick. And the only question is which of the six or so competing technologies is gonna get there first.

And now, what does that mean? That’s a technological affordance, it doesn’t mean anything except that it’s interesting because I’m a technologist. But as a designer, as a citizen, as a father, I care because now I can’t think about watches, mobile phones, or any of these other devices out of the context of these portable wearable types of things moving around in space collectively and relating to those things there on the wall. What’s that mean for education, what’s it mean for business, how do we conduct our meetings? And that is CSCW, or a different branch of it. And the amount of effort put to that, to me, is still really low.

Personally I think he’s being a little optimistic the time scale, but not by a lot, and he’s certainly right that researchers need to be thinking about how that changes the environments in which we work and live. And he has a little built-in slack in his prediction: CSCW only meets every other year, so even if he’s wrong we won’t be able to collect on our drink until 2014.