It doesn't welcome you by name and tell you that "we still have those chinos in your size," as in the movie Minority Report, where talking billboards plug products to Tom Cruise's Detective John Anderton. But Whispering Windows, a new audio system from ETREMA Products, based in Ames, Iowa, at least sings to passersby, bringing us a little closer to that sci-fi future.
Using an amplifier connected to two small pucklike objects that stick to any smooth surface, Whispering Windows turns shopwindows and tabletops into speakers in milliseconds. Retailers can now play soothing music or sales pitches to lure you into their stores. Britain's largest department-store group, John Lewis Partnership, tested Whispering Windows at its Peter Jones shop in London, and sales shot up 40% over a three-week period. Bars and auto dealerships are using it in the U.S. The system costs $1,500, and for those who want to hear Moby in the mirror, a $20 version called Soundbug let's you play CDs and MP3s through the glass.