The explosion of displays is visible to each of us at any time of the day. Cityscapes are more and more seeing the scattered presence of screens, mostly dedicated, today, to advertisement but also being used to provide real time information.
And yet, these displays are just a tiny fraction of the displays we will have in a five years time. In twenty years time my expectation is that any surface will potentially double up into a place to display information. The facade of buildings will be showing a variety of images as part of their architectural characterization. We have already seen a glimpse of this at EXPO 2015, we will see much more in the years to come. These surfaces will also double up as places to display information to the citizenship when need arises.
Any urban installation, from bus stops to benches in the park, will be equipped with embedded displays.
Another important evolution, already happening, is augmented reality applied to urban landscapes. The overlapping of information to the actual city scenes will dramatically change our perception of our cities. Looking at a building we’ll see a restaurant and through AR we will see that there is a table available and the kind of food other customers are enjoying at the particular moment, as if we were inside the restaurant. A.R will become more and more “real” and “augmented” creating a seamless perception that will span over distance and time (you will be able to see both how congested an intersection is now and how it will be in half a hour).
Let’s not forget that the largest display estate existing in our cities is not the screens hanging from walls, rather the ensemble of all the display estate present on our smart phones. This is a space that today is hijacked, from time to time, by SMS text informing of a critical situation (in some areas this is a reality, like in Venice with SMS informing the citizenship of an incoming high tide). In the coming years the whole screens might be hijaked to convey visual messages and the pairing of several smart phones may allow the display of larger images, as it has been demonstrated at MIT.
Rendering of data has also made significant progress, thanks to more capable software supported by faster chips and better displays. We can expect new representations of our cities dynamic behaviour, like the ones provided by the MIT Senseable City Lab Team. In one of their studies they represent the Island of Singapore with an ever changing shape depending on the time it would take to get from one place to another, providing different images, with different shapes, to reflect various kinds of transportation.