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Computing trends: Professor produces a Wallputer

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at dickinsonh@beloit.edu or 608-363-2849

The latest computing trend may have started at Beloit College with Professor of Chemistry and Computer Science Rama Viswanathan’s Wallputer, pictured below.

Rama Viswanathan

The Wallputer is not a TV display; it is a “pervasive display,” a full-fledged device that is as powerful as a laptop. It is connected wirelessly, with all of its hardware located behind the display.

The Wallputer is designed to hang on a wall of every room in a building, displaying relevant information based on which room you are in, for example, a living room or kitchen. The devices are able to tell what they should display based on their configuration, taking information from appointments uploaded to Google Calendar and pictures uploaded to Picasa from anywhere in the world where the Internet can be accessed with a web browser.

After constructing and programming the Wallputer, Viswanathan first tested it out in his home. The Wallputer displayed appointments for the day, as well as a message at the bottom wishing his wife a happy birthday.

Since then, Viswanathan took his prototype to campus. There is currently a Wallputer on display at the entry of the Center for the Sciences. He has another tucked away in one of the chemistry labs.

Another benefit to the Wallputer is that it is a “green” computer. They consume less power than small light bulbs and can also be powered with solar energy, as Viswanathan discovered when he took his sabbatical (and Wallputer) to Mumbai last fall.

“This is always something I’d been thinking about. Here, we are talking about a new way of delivering information,” Viswanathan says. “This is also interesting because it’s a good project for students in different areas.”

Over the next year, Viswanathan plans to get students involved — both computer science majors as well as students in CELEB to work on marketing — with an aim of making the Wallputer more portable and more energy-efficient.

Source: Rama Viswanathan is a professor of chemistry and computer education. He usually teaches courses such as Introduction to Computer Hardware, Computer Architecture, Computer Networks, Data Visualization, Introduction to Computation and Modeling, Thermodynamics and Kinetics, Molecular Visualization, Modeling, Computational Chemistry, and First Year Initiatives. He can serve as a media resource on topics related to his research and teaching interests.