Majority Report: Meet the Friendly Little Pixels That Have Taken Over Election Night

Mr. Han said that his company spends virtually no money on advertising and that the recent exposure on the cable news networks is already helping attract more potential clients. “The elections are just the beginning,” he said.

Mr. Han said he can envision TV producers in the near future employing his technology in a wide range of situations: sports anchors sifting through statistics on big draft nights; national security correspondents illustrating military strategy in the midst of breaking conflicts; business reporters explaining shifting economic data during days of big market swings.

Recently, according to Mr. Han, the producers of CBS’s hit show CSI contacted Perceptive Pixel about featuring one of their units on the show. But Mr. Han is not particularly interested in using his models as fictional props. He turned down their offer.

Mr. Han declined to say exactly how much his units retail for and noted that the screens are “primarily priced for defense and military,” clients. Mr. Han said that he occasionally fields phone calls from individuals of high-net worth, eager for the ultimate home theater bragging rights. As a result, not long ago, Mr. Han advertised a barebones version of his “Interactive Media Wall,” in the Neiman Marcus catalogue.

“No longer chained to cumbersome physical input devices, your imagination can fly at warp speed in a medium that can easily keep pace,” read the ad. “Tap out a sonata with your fingertips, flip through manuscripts with the swipe of your hand, or crop photos with a pinch—it is perfect for grand gestures or the lightest touch.” Starting price: $100,000.

In a time where TV news divisions are already feeling their budgets pinched, will anybody other than the big New York networks be able to spring for such pricey technology?

 

Terry Heaton, an executive with Audience Research and Development (“The Premier Television Branding Company,”) and author of a series of essays called, “TV News in a Postmodern World,” said the Perceptive Pixel technology was “a really cool idea,” but that the “timing is tough.”

“I’m not sure viewers would say it’s a make or break thing,” said Mr. Heaton. “The one good thing is that it allows the broadcasters to keep the anchor on screen during times of going through boring numbers. The wow factor is kind of cool.”

That said, Mr. Heaton noted that the innovation is coming along at a difficult time for broadcasters. He could maybe see local newsrooms in the top ten markets investing in the technology. But stations in smaller markets, he said, probably won’t be able to justify the costs.

“Nobody has any money anymore,” said Mr. Heaton. “The revenue numbers are just heading south. The layoffs and such haven’t been as noticeable in the television industry as the layoffs in print, but it’s a part of everyday life. Is this piece of equipment really going to make a difference in terms of our presentation, or would I rather hire a couple of extra people?”

For the time being, Mr. Han said he doesn’t have any direct competitors, although, bloggers often seem to mistake his wares with Microsoft Surface—Bill Gates’ evolving touch-screen technology, which features a flat 30-inch tabletop that operates with no keyboard and no mouse.

“The key difference between us and Surface is that we’re not really going after this kiosk entertainment market,” said Mr. Han. “We’re actually trying to do things that are useful and productive–not frivolous. I might be turning away a lot of business. But that’s not what I want to do. It’s much harder to attack these problems for medical imaging and for architecture and for news coverage, than it is to make a coffee table that you can order from.”