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In context: Train rides can be monotonous, but at least there is sometimes lovely passing scenery to view. Subway commutes are even worse. Sometimes it makes you wonder why they bother putting windows on subway cars at all. The folks at LG Display want to turn those useless panes of glass into something a little more interesting.
At the upcoming InnoTrans transportation tradeshow in Berlin, Germany, LG will demonstrate a transparent OLED display. The panels are intended to replace train car windows. Germany's premier railway company Deutsche Bahn will also have a new concept train on show installed with the OLED transparent windows. The display functions just like a regular TV or monitor but appears as a transparent window when not in use.
The displays have already been in use in China and Japan. Subways in Beijing and above-ground trains in Japan have used the screens since 2020. So there is already plenty of video of them floating around, like the one below. The reason for the upcoming demo is that LG wants to expand sales to transportation companies in Europe and North America.
According to LG Display, the panes can easily withstand substantial impacts. The OLED screens are reinforced with tempered glass to help prevent them from being damaged. After all, late-night subway denizens are often not the most respectful regarding other people's property.
Transparency ranges from completely clear to almost entirely opaque, depending on what is displayed. For example, a transit map might appear as a mostly transparent overlay of the outside scenery, while an advertisement might completely obscure the passing view.
While the Beijing trains primarily display maps and station layouts, there is no reason that companies couldn't use the windows for other things. Advertising is the gimme here, but LG Display's press release also notes using them to show local news and weather.
Although it only mentions subways and trains, LG could expand the market into other mass transit like buses. For example, the windows already have built-in touchscreen capabilities, so passengers could simply tap their destination on a map to let the driver know where they want off instead of pulling that stupid cord to ring the bell for a stop. Touchscreens could also provide paid or free gaming entertainment for commuters to pass the time on a trip.
It all sounds pretty cool, and I dig the possibilities here, but I'm not sure that the technology is worth its cost. While LG didn't mention pricing, it's sure to be quite spendy. If you've ever been a transit passenger, you know most people have their heads buried in their phones the entire trip. So even with advertising, I'm not convinced the investment would have a decent ROI for most transportation companies.