Transparent LCDs Go Interactive In Clever Test Project

July 26, 2012 by Dave Haynes

(First spotted in Endadget)

The interactive team at Second Story has done some brilliant work with digital displays, most notably the digital towers at the University of Oregon and an interactive wall at the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta.

Back in the lab in Portland, they have started putzing around with transparent LCDs and other technology, to see what they can do. I would describe the results to date as kinda sorta interesting, with a strong element of “there’s something there.”

Sightlines from Second Story on Vimeo.

Here’s how they describe the work:

Recently, we’ve been experimenting with technology capable of tracking faces and changing what the viewer sees on a display, but we wanted to push the experience into uncharted territory. What if you could augment a physical object behind a display (say, a clothespin) with digital labels, and re-calibrate the content to line up with the object depending on your perspective?

We used Planar’s LookThru Display Box, a transparent LCD screen, and a Kinect for Windows Sensor to build this experiment. The depth-sensing camera knows when you’re in front of the display, and it recognizes where in 3D space your face is. Then our software can interactively respond based on your face’s orientation.

The effect elicits a dramatic reaction. Visitors approach what appears as a static display, but as the move closer, the sensor registers their presence and content pops up and lines up with the object inside. We found that once people realized that the display was “smart” and recognized them, there was a moment of delight and they couldn’t tear themselves away. People wanted to linger and explore.

As an homage to the studio’s first interactive work , we used clothespins, but you can imagine how this would work with any physical object, from a valuable artifact in a museum to a new item in a retail environment.

With this technology, we can augment objects in ways that are not only novel or surprising, but truly educational and interesting. We’re able to strengthen the engagement with a tangible object, bringing new stories to life and creating experiences that people are unlikely to forget.

I like the use of these transparent LCDs in smaller, white-backed enclosures that amplify the light and visuals, and the idea of using a sensor to turn what seems like a display case into a digital display. The tracking thing that orients the overlay visuals to the angle of the person looking at the display is also clever. My first reaction was “Yeah, so?” but it has grown on me, as I think how it could be used to feature things like consumer electronics.

Another example of a company well outside what we’d call the digital signage sector doing some of the more innovative work in digital signage.

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