A New Way to Display: Enter the Clear LCD Screen

22 Sep 2015

At Chaotic Moon, we’re always interested in how we can step things up–in this case, in both a technological and an aesthetic sense.

Enter our newest toy: a transparent LCD screen manufactured by AUO—which we received courtesy of Bi-Search International—that’s giving us the opportunity to create magic that’s mind-blowing in terms of both how it works and how it looks.

For those not familiar with what, exactly, a transparent LCD screen is, it’s pretty simple. In fact, it’s actually in your television right now, where it basically serves as a screen on which to display data (which, in the case of your TV, would be, say, your favorite sitcom). And if you were to gut your television, taking away the parts, backlighting and background, and look at the raw LCD panel it as an individual part, you could use the screen separately to display data, and at the same time—due to its transparent nature—you’d be able to see right through it.

In other words, you could be watching Friends reruns on the LCD screen while simultaneously seeing your own friend standing behind the screen in real life. (Though that being said, its applications extend far beyond pretending your buddy is at Central Perk with Ross and Rachel, and we promise they’re far more relevant.)

“Basically, it’s a more effective monitor,” explained Chaotic Moon Sherpa of Solutions Marc Boudria. “You can park it in front of something and have live data being displayed right there on the screen at the same time. You’re able to look at an object or situation of interest and important information simultaneously, which in high-stakes situations could allow you to make decisions more safely and take faster action if necessary.”

Essentially, with the addition of technology like computer vision, it becomes a giant holo lens of sorts, taking your view of the real world and adding a digital overlay of data. According to Boudria, one example of a situation in which this would be effectively applied is on a ship, where the captain not only has to watch and pay attention to where the ship’s heading but also needs to be aware of important information and potential hazards ahead.

“It could be used as an AR platform in a way,” Boudria said. “In the case of a ship, the LCD screen could replace the windows. That way, the captain can keep his eye on the course beyond the glass, and any important information, updates, or alerts to hazards on the horizon could be overlaid right on its surface. He can get all the info he needs without diverting his gaze from the path ahead.”

Now maybe you don’t have a ship (bummer, by the way). Envision a similar use case in your car, where you could have information–whether it’s an urgent maintenance notification, the name of the person calling you, or the song currently playing on the radio–displayed right on your windshield, where you can notice, note and act on it without every looking away from the road. Given the huge percentage of car accidents that are caused by distracted driving (texting, looking down at navigation, checking the radio, etc.), a feature like this could make our roads incredibly safer.

That being said, these screens aren’t in just useful in your vehicle; they have the potential to have a place in your home as well. Given the fact that they’re not completely transparent in every scenario–white allows for transparency, while black makes the screen completely opaque)–LCD screens could serve as windows boasting some convenient and interesting features. For example, you could install built-in blinds by simply controlling the shading that is transmitted to the screen.

And finally, in terms of more tech potential, there are also a bounty of opportunities presented via the implementation of camera vision tech (think the Kinect or Intel RealSense) which would enable the screen to not just display data but to actually be reactive as well.

But that’s a different blog post for a different day.