Displays With Printed Foil Top Layer Make Car Dashboard Info Appear On Demand

August 8, 2022 by Dave Haynes

The giant German auto industry supplier Continental – which may be most known for tires but does much more – is developing interesting new technology that hides messaging behind surfaces, making the visuals appear when needed.

The application is geared to dashboards in high-end vehicles, but I could envision a version of this being applied in applications like retail merchandising and wayfinding.

The idea is to use a printed foil as the top layer of the digital displays that are expected to take over from analog information displays in cars – so a dash that has a uniform woodgrain finish when the car is parked gets gauges, controls and maps when it is fired up, visible through the semi-transparent foil layer.

Think about something like a high-end timepiece brand with a display cabinet or shelf that has a sleek but blank finish that “lights up” when a shopper approaches, the display triggered by a proximity sensor. You could do the same thing with wall surfaces that don’t need guidance or information signs except when someone approaches.

Continental calls its solution the ShyTech display – “a screen that appears only when it is needed …” The company plans to launch the display for cars next year, presumably in BMWs and Audis long before Kias and Buicks. The company makes no mention of doing retail merchandising or anything else. That’s just me speculating and imagineering a bit.

In previewing the tech, Continental in PR says:

The idea behind it: simplicity and clarity. The solution not only creates a wow factor, but also increases user-friendliness and increases safety while driving, because potential distractions are literally hidden. “Displays are the central human-machine interface in the vehicle,” says Ulrich Lüders, Head of Strategy and Portfolio in the Human Machine Interface business unit at Continental. “The design of display solutions therefore plays a central role in the design of the cockpit. Our ShyTech displays herald the beginning of a new age and for us they are the epitome of the cockpit of the future: digital, immersive and ’shy’.”

With the ShyTech Display, Continental is serving the increasing demand for large screen solutions, which are increasingly becoming the standard, especially in the upscale vehicle segments (upper middle class, luxury class, lifestyle models). If necessary, the ShyTech display can occupy the entire width of the dashboard. In view of this trend towards so-called mega screens, the Continental developers asked themselves two crucial questions: How can sensory overload of the vehicle occupants be prevented despite very large monitors? And: How can display areas that are not used in a given situation be optically improved? The solution from the innovators at Continental: ShyTech Displays. These are only visible when they are needed. This is made possible by a semi-transparent surface with which screens can be seamlessly integrated into the surrounding surface – visually as well as haptically. If the display is not needed, it is practically invisible to the human eye. At the same time, Continental is pursuing the approach of a puristic interior design reduced to the essentials.
Specifically, this means that even if the dashboard appears to be “as if made from one piece”, navigation or communication information, for example, as well as the menu on the touchscreen are always available. However, the displays and controls of the screen are only activated when a hand approaches. It is also possible to activate the display via voice control or by briefly tapping the screen surface.

With ShyTech technology, Continental has also solved the design requirement that screens that are switched off appear as visually unappealing, black empty areas. The display surface is designed to imitate the look of the dashboard. Depending on the configuration, this can be, for example, that of wooden panels, carbon panels or a leather-covered surface. Furthermore, it not only looks like the original material, but it also feels like it. Thanks to ShyTech innovations, screens can be placed practically anywhere in the interior. “This enables a calm and tidy interior design in which a wealth of new functions can be integrated at the same time – without overwhelming the occupants,” says Ulrich Lüders, Head of Strategy and Portfolio in the Human Machine Interface business unit at Continental. In addition, disturbing light reflections, for example when the sun is low, are reduced. “ShyTech thus enables a holistic, positive user experience with a breathtaking design, which at the same time reduces potential sources of distraction in the vehicle,” says Lüders.  

A system concept developed by Continental ensures seamless integration of the ShyTech display even when it is activated. The system consists, among other things, of special backlighting, which, in special coordination with the LCD panel and the decorative surface, allows the display content to appear in the ideal brightness and sharpness in every light situation – from glaring sunlight to cloudy rainy weather. The razor-sharp indications of the display also impress with their high contrast values. Continental will launch the ShyTech Display in 2023.

Display Daily has a technical explainer post up about this and a kinda sorta similar development from AUO, but you’ll need a subscription to see it.

  1. Gafeather says:

    Great hidden display approach with “Shy”. How does foil material surface overlay hold up to handling and moisture? How much light is blocked.

    1. Dave Haynes says:

      Dunno, but Bob Raikes digs into it in far more technical terms that you’d “get” but I don’t! But Display Daily is partially pay-walled so you need a subscription (I have one).

      1. Bob Raikes says:

        You can get access to two Display Daily articles per month with free registration. (but not Display Insider!). AUO said that it’s film allows around 90% transmission.

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