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When Is a Window also a Touch Screen? (WOW!)

• David Zax via

Don't you find windows just a tad too ... static?

We are entering an age when an image surrounded by a frame -- on your laptop, on your TV, on your tablet -- is almost expected to be interactive. Why then, hasn't that happened yet with windows? Several projects in the works, from car companies and designers, envision a time in the not-too-distant future when windows will be more like touchscreens.

Take Toyota's collaboration with the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, for instance. "Window to the World," as the concept is called, envisions car windows that add an interactive layer to the scenery outside. A video (that appears to be largely the work of special effects) shows how the concept would work. At times the window could act as an Etch-a-Sketch of sorts, with the passenger tracing, say, the outline of a sheep. In another mode, the screen could estimate the distance of various objects from the side of the car; in another, it could recognize objects (a barn, a bike), and offer up vocabulary lessons in a foreign tongue. And with the reverse-pinch motion now familiar to touchscreen users, the passenger could even zoom in on an object in the distance.

If all that seems a bit excessive, for what can mostly be achieved with binoculars and a phrasebook, then Glasgow University's project in a similar vein might interest you more. The project is slightly different -- rather than serving as a souped-up Gameboy to pacify the impatient passenger, GU wants to make the next generation of "heads-up displays" already familiar from the world of military aviation. These would be computer-screen like windshields for the driver of the vehicle to glean data (speed, fuel levels), without having to take his or her eyes off the road.

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