Sci-fi movie tech in the real world
August 3, 2010 6:09 AM   Subscribe

I want one of those monitors you see in movies that are a piece of glass that you can see through. They invariably have maps on them, and are touch screen. Awesome. Is this even possible?
posted by basil1 to Technology (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They don't exist.

Clear LCDs are possible, but have no backlight, and so are very difficult to view. There are special environments where they're useful, but generally in conjuction with light-generating machinery (overhead projectors, etc.).

But the big, clear screen isn't something people are making.
posted by Netzapper at 6:25 AM on August 3, 2010

Getting there.

The only place I've seen these in use is in Las Vegas, to put video displays in front of the slot machine reels.
posted by smackfu at 6:25 AM on August 3, 2010

I want one of those flying cars I saw in the Fifth Element. Yeah, special effects.

In reality a transparent monitor would be horrible to watch anything on unless you could make it opaque when actually displaying something.
posted by JJ86 at 6:25 AM on August 3, 2010

LG released a phone with a transparent touchscreen keyboard. And Microsoft created a touch screen that can be controlled from behind. But most companies probably don't see the development of a large see-through touchscreen as a high priority; they just wouldn't sell as well as the alternatives.
posted by neushoorn at 6:31 AM on August 3, 2010

You do get semi-transparent sheets of plastic to back-project onto though (seem to be popular in the windows of estate agents). Multi-touch is also possible with IR LEDs and a camera picking up the points touched on the sheet.
posted by Morbuto at 6:33 AM on August 3, 2010

You legends. So cool.

Morbuto, thanks for the idea - projecting onto glass would be good enough to make me believe I'm living in the future. Here are a couple of links I found on this for any future visitors of this thread:
posted by basil1 at 6:57 AM on August 3, 2010

semi-transparent sheets of plastic to back-project onto

Isn't this the same technology utilized in presidential telprompters?
posted by Rash at 9:10 AM on August 3, 2010

One of the demonstrations set up where I work is a standard computer display facing towards the ceiling, then a sheet of glass above it at 45 degrees - where the screen is dark you see through the glass, where the screen is bright you see it reflected in the glass, and seemingly floating in mid-air.

Of course, for it to work the lighting has to be right (too bright in the room and you won't see the reflection) and the assembly needs to be mounted high up if you don't want people to see the upward-facing screen (Which gives away the secret!). Also, you can't display dark things.

Still, most of the people I've shown it to fall for its fake-3D for quite a while and think it's a holographic display.
posted by Mike1024 at 9:35 AM on August 3, 2010

When I did AV work, we had a "screen", which was some sort of special piece of plastic or something similar. Because of how it was made (how the fibers lined up, or something like that), it was clear, but if you aimed a projector at it from a specific angle, the image would appear on the clear surface. It was really a pretty cool thing, although at the time (I think it was about 7 or 8 years ago), it was quite a few thousands of dollars just for the 3X4 screen.
posted by markblasco at 10:37 AM on August 3, 2010

The same effect Mike1024 describes is used in the Pinball2000 series of games. It's the Haunted-mansion effect, and doesn't require more than a projector or bright monitor, a piece of glass and a way to control the ambient lighting. In the case of the pinball it's a monitor mounted facing the floor that reflects off the playfield glass.
posted by Four Flavors at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2010

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