Samsung’s New, Invisible “Ambient Mode” Feature Shows You What the Design of a TV Should Be

As glass rectangles of all sizes have come to occupy our attention spans, Samsung’s designers have taken the largest one and enabled it to disappear. Their new QLED TVs, which come in fives sizes from 49 to 88 inches, have an irresistible “Ambient Mode” that kicks in when the TV’s off. Prior to mounting the TV you take a photograph of the wall it’s to live on, then this is what you see:

It’s a simple, elegant trick that manifests an idea once you’re finally able to turn off the news, the game or Bachelor-based cruelty: You are back in your living space. There’s no TV here. Well there is, but don’t look at it. It’s there if you need it. In the meantime, congratulate yourself for your choice of wall treatment, well done.

In the photo below, you can better see a detail that the designers took the time to get right: A faint drop-shadow around the inside of the bezel. This gives the illusion that the brick on-screen is at the same depth as the brick surrounding it. Absent that drop shadow, your eye would spot the discrepancy of lighting to either side of the frame and the illusion would subconsciously be broken. This is a minor thing but to me, represents that extra mile that good designers will go to.

The clock/weather/news headlines/traffic information overlays are optional, chosen by the user from Samsung’s list of partners (The Weather Channel, The New York Times and reportedly more to come). And you can of course set the timer on the Ambient Mode so that it turns off entirely, if you’re concerned about your electricity bill. Alternatively you can opt for it to display an image of your choosing.

Another nifty detail is the company’s elegant-looking One Invisible Connection, the single slim cable that supplies both power and A/V to the screen. It can be had in lengths of up to 15 meters, freeing you to place the TV wherever you want, sidestepping the tyranny of power outlet geography.

The TVs will be available later this month.