GM Explores Windows of Opportunity
University project envisions smart interactive windows for rear passengers
DETROIT - Got backseat boredom? DVD players and Game Boys are so five years ago, but a new concept in rear seat entertainment technology that uses the windows themselves could replace squirminess and snoozing with interactive scribbling, sweeping and pinching.
General Motors Research and Development put that challenge before researchers and students from the FUTURE LAB at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel. The task: Conceptualize new ways to help rear seat passengers, particularly children, have a richer experience on the road.
The Windows of Opportunity (WOO) Project was inspired by psychological studies indicating car passengers often feel disconnected from their environment, GM asked the Bezalel students to turn car windows into interactive displays capable of stimulating awareness, nurturing curiosity and encouraging a stronger connection with the world outside the vehicle.
"Traditionally, the use of interactive displays in cars has been limited to the driver and front passenger, but we see an opportunity to provide a technology interface designed specifically for rear seat passengers," said Tom Seder, GM R&D lab group manager for human-machine interface. "Advanced windows that are capable of responding to vehicle speed and location could augment real world views with interactive enhancements to provide entertainment and educational value."
Since GM has no immediate plans to put interactive display windows into production vehicles, the R&D team gave free reign to the Bezalel students to create applications without concern whether they could be mass produced. Bezalel is Israel's oldest institute of higher education and one of the more prestigious schools of its kind in the world.
The apps include:
- Otto, an animated character projected over passing scenery that responds to real-time car performance, weather and landscape. With Otto, passengers can learn about their environment in fun, playful ways.
- Foofu, an app that allows passengers to create, explore and discover through finger drawing on window steam.
- Spindow, an app that provides its users a peek into other users' windows around the globe in real time.
- Pond, an app that allows passengers to stream and share music with other cars on the road, downloads favorite tracks, and share messages with other passengers on the road.
To demonstrate these apps, the students produced a full scale functional prototype of a rear passenger seat and side window. The students used motion and optical sensor technology developed by EyeClick to turn standard window glass into a multi-touch and gesture sensitive surface.
If such interactive windows were put into automotive production they likely would use electronically charged "smart glass" technology, which is capable of variable states of translucence and transparency, and can reflect projected images. Smart glass is increasingly used in architectural and display applications, but outside of movies like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is rarely seen in cars.
"Projects like WOO are invaluable, because working with designers and scholars from outside of the automotive industry brings fresh perspective to vehicle technology development," said Omer Tsimhoni, lab group manager for human-machine interface, GM Advanced Technical Center in Israel. "WOO is just one of many projects underway at GM that could reinvent the passenger experience in years to come."