Look, Ma! No Wires!

You’ve got a beautiful, big flat screen television. It’s so thin that you’ve put it on a wall mount and it just seems to float in space. Maybe it will just float away! Wait a minute; no, that can’t happen because it’s tied solidly to the ground by a mass of cables that should be enough to connect the Space Shuttle to its launch gantry. There should be a better way.

Fortunately, there’s one industry group working to solve this problem. The Wireless Home Digital Interface Group (WHDI) has developed standards that allow high-definition signals to be sent wirelessly to display devices. This means that all you need is a power outlet and a small receiver at your television set; all the other devices in your home entertainment system can use WHDI to send the picture (and sound if necessary) to your television.

We’ve had this level of convenience for a while now with wireless surround sound speakers, but it’s great that this technology is becoming practical for the more-demanding video part of the equation. Solutions like HDMI could help lead to two important developments in our living rooms.

First, it makes it more practical to put the entertainment components next to the seating area where they are easy to reach, instead of across the room next to the television. If you want to watch a DVD, doesn’t it make more sense to have it in an end table next to the sofa, or built into the coffee table?

The other idea is a bit more radical; maybe the time has come for “dumb” TVs. All most people need these days is a big display. They don’t need tuners because they don’t connect their sets to an antenna. They don’t need their televisions to have Internet support because so many other devices already provide that function (or it’s inexpensive to add using a network media player). And the TVs don’t even need to have complex scalers or video processing built in; other devices such as Blu-ray players already have those features, and can take care of the task of converting other signals into a simple 1080p stream that a dumb TV can understand.

So with just a power plug and a single HDMI port (or built-in WHDI support), a dumb TV would be ready to do just about everything that the average U.S. viewer would want from it. Let the intelligence and source switching be handled by some other box in the room. What do you think? We have nothing to lose but our wires!