Your wallpaper could soon be an HD display

@CNNMoneyTech July 30, 2012: 9:26 AM ET

REDMOND, Wash. (CNNMoney) -- Flatscreen HDTVs are nice, but the technology hasn't changed all that much over the past decade.

There have been all kinds of attempts to update the TV experience by adding features like Internet connectivity or 3-D. Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) is thinking about a bigger change -- much bigger.

At its research lab in Redmond, Wash., Microsoft engineers are working on a display technology called "vX," which scales infinitely large. Or at least really, really big.

Giant HD displays exist today, but they typically involve multiple displays working in tandem with one another, each controlled by an individual computer. That means today's big displays require a lot of electronics, take up way more space than just the display itself, and they're massively expensive. The 2,160-inch HD screen at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, cost $40 million.

Microsoft believes vX is a solution to that problem. In a feat of engineering, the company's researchers built 15 flatscreen displays and gave each screen its own unique set of electronics. None has its own graphics card or a computer -- they're all collectively controlled by one PC.

The next step is to add nine more screens to get to 24. Tom Blank, the Microsoft Research engineering manager in charge of the vX project, said the system is designed to scale up to a 1,300-inch display.

That's not Cowboys Stadium big, but vX's resolution is nearly six times better. The stadium screen -- until recently the world's largest -- sports 30 million LED lights at 18 dots per inch. Microsoft's vX display has an amazing 72 million pixels at 100 dots per inch. That means you can walk right up to the screen and still see the image in stunning clarity.

What would vX be used for? Blank and his team aren't quite sure yet, but reducing each display to an incredibly small set of electronics means that one day, customers could go down to the store and buy rolls of HD screens for cheap.

"What we're really interested in is a future where this is just wallpaper, and we can cover anything -- where this circuit here is incorporated into your wallpaper," Blank said. "You don't like your wallpaper? Reprogram it. That's what the future of displays is going to turn into." To top of page

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