Ever since the invention of television back in the 1920's, the images displayed on a TV or, more recently, a computer screen could not be mixed with actual 3D objects. The screen and its housing were one medium, and the real world was another. They could coexist but never share the space.
That is changing with the introduction of the "transparent display."
Simply put, a transparent display is nothing more than the front glass portion of an LCD computer display without a light source (or electronics) behind it. Anything displayed as white will actually be transparent and allow the viewer to see through the glass and directly onto objects placed behind the screen.
Recently, a few display manufacturers have started to market this type of product.
The purpose of this is to allow third-party manufacturers and integrators the opportunity to creatively add the light as part of a lightbox assembly, which would also contain actual 3D objects.
With this technology, 2D and 3D elements can be combined to create one cohesive experience.
Is this important? Lets consider a few possibilities.
One common application is to use this type of display as cooler doors such as you would see in a convenience store. This allows for advertising on the door, but the product inside is still visible. As a consumer, I can see the product through the glass door, but my experience is enhanced by the text, videos and images being displayed on the door. Pricing, product information, special promotions and news can all be displayed and can be part of a media loop.
Or consider a large object like an electric guitar. The guitar itself has a distinct shape and is very interesting to look at, but how can we add to the experience?
When we add digital 2D elements over and around the guitar, we can start to draw the viewer's attention to specific items of interest. We can play video of the product being used, we can add images of color or other options and we can add text to reinforce various selling points. In addition, we can also highlight certain selling features that cannot be easily seen or are hidden, such as the electronics.
The result is that we have the opportunity to really bring the product to life and give it its own voice.
Transparent displays share the same attributes as traditional large-screen LCD displays from a connectivity and operational standpoint. The interface and resolutions tend to be very similar, and the most common way of driving these displays is with a PC. The most important consideration is light and making sure that enough light is coming through the glass so that both the content and the product are visible.
Having a well-constructed cabinet to hold the object and finding the proper placement for your light source is critical. It also helps to be creative with the content. Since white sections in the media will show up as transparent, mixing light and dark elements, animating transitions and playing with shapes will all contribute to a great customer experience.
Jim is Director of Digital Signage at InReality, an Atlanta-based strategy, design and solutions management agency. An industry veteran, Jim has over 10 years of experience in digital media integration, digital signage system design and user experience design.