12 Tech Tuesday – Transparent LCD

We just got a transparent LCD in the office!

It is provided by Primeview using a Samsung 22″ LCD panel. It is an OEM version of Primeview’s PRV22TC so is just the LCD panel and video driver without any lightbox.
So what is a transparent LCD… A normal LCD is a panel made up of many pixels (in this case 1920x 1080) that let Red Green and Blue light through, behind the LCD panel is a bright backlight which provides the illumination to see the LCD (read more about normal LCDs in my first tech tuesday post)… if you take the backlight away then you have a transparent LCD. I hacked an LCD in 2003 and pulled off its backlight and had a transparent LCD… but it has taken till now for companies to start mass-producing them.

Why are they so cool? Because you can see through them.
You can put an artifact behind them and lay a layer of dynamic color information on top and you can selectively choose what is transparent and what is opaque revealing information behind the LCD. I feel like in the museum world and in the retail world where there are artifacts, a transparent LCD allows a really compelling dynamic information layer to be created. I also think that there is potential for LCD technology to drastically change how the windows of our house function allowing them to dynamically change for heating and cooling as well as put information layers on the outside wall.

In Las Vegas I saw a hybrid transparent LCD which had a backlight, but it was laser cut where the slots of the slot machine were so that you could see through the LCD screen to physical slow but the animate would flow smoothly across everything.

Some challenges with the transparent LCD

  • Getting a good backlight is really hard. The light has to be even and bright for it to read well. In natural light it seems a little amber, I will check with the manufacturer to see if that is unique but I think that the normal LCD backlight helps to compensate.
  • Viewing angle is different for each viewer so augmented reality for multiple people is going to be challenging, a transparent LCD paired with face recognition could adjust viewing angle for a single user.
  • Our transparent LCD is distorts when looking at things that are farther than a couple feet away, making it not good for external viewing.

See below for some examples of transparent LCDs.

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