Since the 1950s, Television Sets Have Gone from Being Furniture and the Hearth of Home to Vanishing Mirror TVs

03/23/2017 11:12 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2017
<strong><em>Television in 1950s as the new hearth of home</em></strong>
Evert F. Baumgardner
Television in 1950s as the new hearth of home
<strong><em>From furniture to vanishing mirror TV</em></strong>
From furniture to vanishing mirror TV

So how’d we get here — to where TV households worldwide were estimated at just under 2 billion in 2016?

In 1946, there were about 6,000 televisions in America. But boosted by a booming post-war economy and accelerating innovation, about 50% of American homes had a TV set by the mid-‘50s. The early color RCA sets were designed as furniture and became the focal point, the new hearth, of our homes.

By the ‘60s, almost 90% of American homes had a set. And, by the ‘70s, our ubiquitous TVs became the display devices for the first recorded media, and then later for the first generation of home computers. Then big screen TVs eventually demanded the need for dedicated media rooms.

But then a personal experience got me thinking about TVs in different scenarios like “wet” environments — in our bathrooms, spas and even showers.

The Public House is a big LA sports/soccer bar where I’ve been part of 400 fans enthusiastically watching the Copa America tournament last summer. We also watched the Champions League final outside on the bar’s back patio. So I went to watch my fave Premier League team Tottenham play in our Champions League group games outdoors this last winter.

But with LA’s wetter than normal winter, we had to head back inside. With the rain pounding down, it brought up those questions about watching sports on TV screens outdoors, or even by a pool. Even more, with no commercial breaks during soccer games, what about continuously watching a game during a bathroom run? Or what about watching any sports or entertainment program in any wet indoor environment? Hello, are waterproof TVs safe in the shower, with no electrical problems?

My waterproof TV research led me to display companies from multinationals like Samsung, LG and Panasonic to upcomers like Shineworld Innovations/Soulaca, a display technology developer and manufacturer.

Watching some demo videos was like watching a sci-fi movie like Star Trek, except their future tools are actually real visual devices being used today — screens appear seemingly out of nowhere in a mirror, and then you can remote control them away and the full mirror re-appears.

I know, right? But I wanted to know the state of the art of waterproof TVs today. Luke Liu, who co-founded Soulaca with an American partner, had a “Eureka” moment and began manufacturing its own waterproof and vanishing mirror TVs. Liu explains:

In 2009, I was staying in a Ritz Carlton hotel and accidentally found a red LED lighting spot on the mirror over the washbasin. I touched it, then a TV program magically showed up on the mirror. I soon discovered new or refreshed hotels were increasingly using mirror or waterproof TV’s in their bathrooms. Some installed the mirror TV’s over the washbasin, some installed the waterproof TV’s (non-mirror) near the bathtub, and some installed both. I sensed that waterproof TV could be a growing trend for the home bathroom. Plus, you get to watch The Game of Thrones or The Big Bang Theory while shaving or showering!

Doing some more research, I discovered there’s an international standard for waterproof TV ratings, so you don’t have to worry about the water/electricity issue, and these cool products are safe to use around wet environments like in bathrooms and kitchens or even near indoor/outdoor spas and pools. The television uses mechanical technology and sealed with waterproof glue, so they can be splashed, rained on, or, in some cases, submerged in water and still work. Really, wow?!

And then beyond this great safety aspect, there’s that futuristic innovation. With Mirror TVs, the television images seemingly appear out of nowhere, like in Star Trek movies. The LCD panel is actually installed behind the semi-permeable mirror. When the TV is off, people can just see and use the mirror because of optical reflection. When the TV’s LCD panel is powered on, the LCD panel’s light can pass through the mirror, so people can then view The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon and his pals’ shenanigans on the screen. And for us soccer fans, we don’t have to miss our game coverage during a bathroom run.

Now, more and more people realize they can have fun and watch television in the bathroom while shaving, taking a shower, or even relaxing by their spa/pool. And, in the near future, our intelligent home system will detect our body via an infrared ray as we enter, then it’ll power on our waterproof television while we take a long soak. And as we wonder, ‘So what has conniving Cersei been up to on Game of Thrones?’

We’ve sure come a long way, baby, from television as furniture.

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