Transport Theory

GM explores interactive backseat windows

Posting in Design

GM's Research and Development lab challenged design students in Israel to develop what could be the backseat windows of the future.

No, we're not in a scene from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. This is simply the latest bit of R&D from General Motors. The automaker challenged researchers and students from the FUTURE LAB at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel to conceptualize new ways to enhance the experience of backseat passengers, children in particular.

GM said it developed the Windows of Opportunity Project in an attempt to turn car windows into interactive displays to stimulate awareness, nurture curiosity and foster a stronger connection between backseat passengers and the outside world.

“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 Research and Development 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.”

The students at Bezalel, Israel's oldest institute of higher education, had free reign to get as creative as they wished when designing the applications, disregarding whether or not the designs could be mass produced.

Using motion and optical sensor technology developed by EyeClick, in order to turn window glass into a multi-touch and gesture-sensitive surface, the students produced a functional prototype of a rear passenger side window.

They came up with several apps, including Otto (see image above), an animated character that responds to real-time car performance, the weather, and the surrounding landscape; Foofu, an app that allows passengers to draw on simulated window steam; Spindow, an app that lets users see what other users are seeing out their windows around the world; and Pond, an app that allows passengers to stream and share music with other passengers on the road.

Were such technology to be implemented in automotive production, they would likely use "smart glass" technology, which can achieve various states of translucence and transparency and can also reflect projected images.

GM currently has no plans to produce cars with these apps, but the automaker says it currently has several projects underway that could reinvent the experience of backseat passengers in the future.

See more about the Windows of Opportunity Project:

Photo: GM

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure