Brit Design Students Make Subway Car Ceilings Into Location-Aware Displays

July 24, 2012 by Dave Haynes

PSFK has a post up about British design students who have developed a concept that turns the ceilings of subway cars into location-aware digital displays.

Writes PSFK:

British design students have created a digital display system for train cars to give riders a view of the outside world they’re passing. The ‘Canopy’ concept uses flexible electrophoretic (“e-paper”) display panels that would attach to the roof of a train car. The panels would show an ‘ambient’ animation of passing landmarks and weather information, which would be stored on a computer in the train and updated via Wi-Fi. The possibilities are endless for this display, as advertisers could pay to make their mark with relevant location-based ads.

One of the designers (as far as I can tell) describes the “Canopy” project in more detail on his blog:

A display system in the ceiling of a metro train that gives commuters a connection to life above ground. As our cities grow the construction and use of underground railways becomes routine, but the fastest way to cross the city detaches you from the landmarks and sensations your subconscious mind uses to navigate through space and time.

A worm’s eye view of passing landmarks above you and a generated sky put you back in contact with real life on the surface; unobtrusive, curated advertisements about events and promotions along your route break the monotony of the daily grind into work.

Canopy uses flexible electrophoretic (“e-paper”) display panels fixed to the interior panels of the train. Passing landmarks, events and promotions are shown at the relevant locations as the train progresses along the line. The content, stored on an embedded PC in the carriage is updated via WiFi connection either at the depot or in the tunnel, depending on where service is available.

An ‘ambient’ animation of weather conditions and the sky above help provide variation from day-to-day as well as giving information about what is going on above ground. Advertisers can pay for unobtrusive, relevant advertisements and track the effectiveness of their advert; QR codes in the advertisement bubbles are used to track the response rate and charge on a pay-per-click basis.

Conceptually, it’s a cool and celever idea.

In practical operating terms, there are all kinds of challenges in making this workable. Subway cars are rough and tumble, expensive operating environments, and not necessarily all that great in many markets for advertising. I’m also not sure how the big $$ brands would respond to the color limitations I THINK are still an issue with e-paper.

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