Transparent televisions like Xiaomi’s Mi TV LUX are a cool idea, but they’re not exactly practical. These totally see-through self-luminous displays have a hard time with visuals containing dark colors, and putting them up against a blank wall kind of defeats the purpose. But LG, the sole manufacturer of all transparent OLED displays currently in use (including the one in the Mi TV LUX), just came up with a variation that actually makes sense, especially in the time of COVID-19.
In place of the plain plexiglass partitions many restaurants have installed as hygienic shields between customers and staff, LG envisions transparent OLED screens that offer additional functionality. Shown in use at a sushi bar at this year’s virtual CES, the 55-inch smart display offers a touchscreen menu. Guests can make their selections and then choose from entertainment like sporting events or TV shows to watch while their food is prepared. Instead of being kind of pointless, the transparency of the screen actually comes in handy, allowing them to maintain visual contact with their server or chef as they watch.
This use in a restaurant is notable for its novelty, and the fact that it’s uniquely well-suited to what will likely be our pandemic-induced “new normal” for the foreseeable future. It allows for virtually zero contact between diners and staff, especially with integrated card readers. Of course, one does have to wonder whether having multiple displays like this would make restaurants even noisier than they already are, and whether being bombarded with entertainment everywhere we go is all that good for us.
But this is far from the only way LG’s latest transparent screens can be used. The company already replaced subway train windows in Beijing and Shenzhen with its displays, showing commuters information about subway schedules, transfers, local weather, and news without cutting off access to daylight or views of the passing scenery. And in its virtual CES show, LG demonstrated how its transparent OLED products can be integrated into a smart bed that rises from the footboard, with cinematic sound embedded right into the frame. A video by Engadget shows all three uses in action, along with other tech from LG’s presentation.
As usual, these aren’t finished products ready to hit the market. LG is just showing off what its transparent display can do, and how other manufacturers could potentially incorporate it into their own products.
“With its superior transparency, Transparent OLED can be used in various fields such as smart homes, smart buildings, and mobility, including autonomous vehicles, aircraft, and subways,” the company said in a recent press release. “LG Display, the only transparent OLED manufacturer in the world, is seeing growing demand for Transparent OLED from these industries.”
The new version of the transparent OLED “realizes 40 percent transparency, providing clear image quality while being crystal clear like glass compared to the existing transparent LCD with only 10-percent transparency,” according to LG, so it’s a pretty considerable upgrade. Maybe it won’t be long before one shows up at a sushi restaurant near you. If you’re interested in seeing more, you can check out LG’s virtual CES 2021 showroom at VXLGDisplay.com.