You know those glass privacy screens in chauffeur-driven cars that the rich people in the back use to separate themselves from the unwashed working-class slobs that drive them around? Of course you do—it’s one of the key iconic elements of limousines. Well, even though it sounds impossible, it seems that rich people may finally be bored with staring at their own reflections, which is why, I assume, BMW has taken out a patent on a privacy divider that can act as a display screen. In some ways, it’s hard to imagine this would not have happened.
In case you’re still fuzzy on these things, here’s one in use in the movie This Is Spinal Tap:
See? You know what these are.
The BMW-focused forum i4Talk reported on the patent and suggested that it’ll likely see use in the (BMW-owned, remember) Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase, which already offers a privacy screen that can go from clear to opaque instantly:
The patent is called a “Switchable Transparent Display” and is described as follows:
An apparatus is provided which comprises a first layer that is switchable between a first state wherein light transits the layer substantially unimpeded and a second state wherein light is substantially blocked from transiting the layer. The apparatus further comprises a second layer which is substantially transparent and comprises light emitting elements, such as organic light emitting diodes (OLED.) A face of the first layer contacts a face of the second layer such that the first layer controls the transit of light through the second layer. The first layer may be a layer of smart or switchable glass and may comprise a layer of electrochromic material. Uses of the apparatus in car compartment dividers, windows and sunroofs is described along with methods of manufacture of the apparatus.
So, it’s basically a two-layer glass panel, with one similar to the current setup, capable of becoming clear or opaque, and another layer with light-emitting display elements like OLEDs. Also interesting is the suggestion of windows and sunroofs for use of the system, which could be cool.
A few years ago I suggested a similar display-on-window setup, though I specified that it would be used to show a continuously-weeping Garrison Kellior (see number 10 on the link).
The patent drawings show an absurdly simple diagram of the side cutaway of the system (now you can build your own at home!) and three photos showing the three possible states of the divider: clear, opaque, or displaying an image.
I suspect any system like this would have some sort of internet connection and/or connections to display content from sources like HDMI, USB, SD cards, or whatever. If they include a composite or RF connection, you could make this dream come true, too:
So, yeah. This was always going to happen. We all know that. I guess it’ll be pretty cool to see in action in some Rolls-Royce or BMW? I’m sure eventually it’ll trickle down to mass-market minivans, because I could see this being really great there.