Our time at CES 2023 might be over, but it’s still worth highlighting some standouts at the show. One of those that’s gotten quite a bit of attention is from an upstart company called Displace. LG’s brand-new Signature OLED M eliminates every wire except for the power cord, but Displace is trying to nix that one, too. In Las Vegas, the company demonstrated a completely wireless 55-inch 4K OLED TV that runs off four hot-swappable batteries. This is a dream that has existed since the earliest days of The Verge.
Are we seeing an imperfect sneak peek of the future, or is this a solution in search of a problem? Is the Displace another classic example of CES vaporware? Will it actually ever ship? All I know for now is that it seems to make good on the everything-wireless concept — with one potentially pricey gamble.
A single Displace TV costs $3,000. For that money, you get the display — from what I could tell, it’s a typical LG Display 4K OLED panel — four batteries (with a charging station), and a base hub that’s responsible for wirelessly transmitting all of your entertainment to the 55-inch screen. (The base station wasn’t being shown at Displace’s CES booth, but reps said it will use Wi-Fi 6E for a robust connection when communicating with the TV.)
According to the company, you’ll be able to link four TVs together for a 110-inch 8K picture. A four-TV bundle is expected to run $9,000, so you’d be getting the last one for free — and putting a whole hell of a lot of trust in Displace’s vision without much by the way of details. This can also be done, supposedly, with 16 Displace units for an enormous 220-inch 16K image. You’d have bezels cutting through the picture, so I’m not sure who this would appeal to beyond business and trade show clients. But man, just think of having to charge all of those batteries on a regular basis.
When pressed against a flat surface for a few seconds, the system detects that you want to stick the TV in that spot and whirs up the vacuum mechanism. Once it’s adhered, you can just let go and it won’t go anywhere. I saw this demoed firsthand several times at Displace’s CES booth — and the reps weren’t shy about tugging on the Displace to show how firmly affixed it was. But not all surfaces are a great match. I was told that brick probably won’t work since it’s porous.
Major TV manufacturers with boundless resources have never been able to pull this off in a way that prevails over the traditional handheld remote. Maybe Displace would’ve been better served going the simpler route: between the all-wireless approach and gesture controls, it starts to feel like an overwhelming amount of ambition for a debut product.
I don’t like being pessimistic about startups trying new things. I still try to get excited about fresh ideas at CES — even if I’d never recommend them to most people. Displace only plans to ship 100 TVs for this first go-round, and the company says all deposits are “fully-refundable.” So it’s not exactly shooting for the moon here. But there are so many unknowns about the software, base station, wireless performance outside of controlled environments, and all those gestures. You’d hope something like this would at least support AirPlay 2 and Google Cast.
It’s all very unproven at the moment, and the current state of technology isn’t ready for a fully wireless TV. But Displace is at least giving you a tease of what might be coming down the pike whenever wireless networking and home theater standards reach a point where the concept is more feasible. I won’t be preordering this rough outline of that dream, and neither should you. But the Displace was the most CES thing that I came across at CES. After a few years away from the Las Vegas show floor, it was just the kind of far-out gimmick that I came to see.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge