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GM explores rear windows as entertainment displays

General Motors reveals a new concept in rear-seat entertainment technology that uses the windows as interactive displays.


When I was a kid and my family went on road trips, my siblings and I played "Punch Buggy," a particularly brutal game of spotting a VW Beetle and punching the kid next to you in the arm. Kids today have less combative forms of in-car entertainment such as DVD players and game machines. But kids in the future may have backseat entertainment that looks like it's straight out of a sci-fi movie.

Recently, General Motors Research and Development tasked researchers and students from the Future Lab, at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel, to design new ways for backseat passengers to not only be entertained, but also to interact with the environment outside.

GM launched the Windows of Opportunity (WOO) Project, which was inspired by psychological studies indicating that car passengers often feel disconnected from their environment, the company said in a press release.

The students at Bezalel have developed four apps, Otto, Foofu, Spindow, and Pond, that turn car windows into interactive displays. These apps would be "capable of stimulating awareness, nurturing curiosity, and encouraging a stronger connection with the world outside the vehicle," GM said.

"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," Tom Seder, GM R&D lab group manager for human-machine interface said. "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 Bezalel students created a full-scale functional prototype of a rear passenger seat and side window. They used motion- and optical-sensor technology developed by EyeClick to turn standard window glass into a touch- and gesture-sensitive surface. GM said that if these kinds of windows were put into actual production, they'd likely use smart-glass technology.