Steelcase is at CES 2012 showing off media:scape -- a mashup of office furniture and technology that some might classify as a glorified HDMI and audio switch box.
The way media:case works is relatively simple. The "mini" table-top version (shown in the embedded video below) has four "pucks." Each puck supports the connection of a single HDMI-capable device like a notebook or tablet. When the first device is connected to one of the four pucks, the media:scape mini detects the presence of the device and automatically routes its output to the HD display that's mounted into the media:scape's desktop frame.
As more devices are connected to the other three pucks, it's just a matter of pressing the button in the middle of one of those pucks to switch the HD display to the output of that device (the one connected to that puck). The pucks have a 3.5mm audio port on them as well. When in use, switching from one puck to another switches both the audio and the video. Otherwise, when no audio is in use, it's just the video that gets switched.
Steelcase integrated technologies product manager Scott Sadler believes that the media:scape mini is much more than a glorified HDMI switchbox. When the cameras weren't rolling, Sadler explained how the technology in the pucks automatically reconciles resolution differences between the a device's native resolution and that of the HD display. For example, a puck can help bridge the gap between an Apple iPad 2 and an HD display since both have very different resolutions.
In terms of iPads, one of the key differences between a first generation iPad and an iPad 2 is that, with the first generation iPad, only certain applications (eg: YouTube) are capable of outputting video through the 30 pin connector at the base of the tablet. With an iPad 2, everything that appears on the screen of the tablet is also mirrored to any connected displays.
The media:scape does not come with an HD display built into it. Users would have to purchase that separately. According to Sadler, the media:scape mini is optimized for a 40 or 42 inch LED monitor. But even before investing in the LED monitor, the price on the media:scape mini is between $6,000 and $7,000 which is why InformationWeek first recommends checking to see if something like a $15 5x1 HDMI Switchbox from Amazon might not get the job done almost as easily, but for way less money.