Windows — the actual thing, not the operating system — are pretty good at what they do. They let light in and let you see the world outside, and while I’d be happier if they needed less cleaning, they’re pretty much optimised for the task in hand. They don’t need an upgrade.
Unfortunately, LG disagrees, unveiling some undoubtedly clever but thoroughly unnecessary technology at the InnoTrans trade show: transparent OLED screens for Subway Trains. You can see an older version of the technology on the Beijing subway below to give you an idea of how it looks in practice.
As I say, it’s very cool, slightly science fiction-y tech, and it could have some practical uses. They can “display a wide range of content, including driving information, transfer information, weather, and news, at the same time,” LG explains.
That would be really handy if we weren’t all carrying devices in our pockets that do all that and more. But there’s one thing these window-screens could force on passengers that can be (kind of) avoided on your phone: adverts.
And sure enough, the ‘A’ word isn’t far away. “As OLED panels have excellent visibility, they can maximise the effects of advertising, and they can also support augmented reality (AR) functions to provide new experiences that have never been seen before,” the press release continues. Huh.
I’m writing this article while sat on a train in a window seat on shaky but just-about usable WiFi. Turning to my left, I can see the countryside rolling by at high speed, which is just what I want from a screen break.
What I don’t want from said screen break is to be enjoying the scenery, only for it to suddenly melt away, transforming into an advert for Pepsi or Burger King — and not just because I’d suddenly find the absence of actual burgers and soft drink irritating.
The world isn’t short of places to display adverts, and even less so since we all started carrying around mini computers in our pocket. As the old Futurama quote goes when Fry is asked if they had adverts in the 20th century: “Well sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio, and in magazines, and movies, and at ball games, and on buses, and milk cartons, and T-shirts, and bananas, and written on the sky… But not in dreams.”
I feel the same way about train windows.
This is specifically labelled as a solution for subway trains, of course, and granted the view isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing there. But subway networks are full of maps, train information and — yes — ads already. This feels like tech for tech’s sake, so thanks but no thanks LG. I would officially like to opt out of hearing from trusted marketing partners while looking through glass.