Transparent LCD Makes Everything Look Futuristic

According to [Kelsey], transparent displays are guaranteed to make “everything feel like the future.” Unfortunately they’re hard to find, and the ones typically available are OLED and can’t make solid black colors. But as luck would have it, it’s possible to repurpose a common LCD to be sort of transparent.

A LCD uses nematic crystals that can polarize light, with the amount of polarization changing based on the electric field applied to the crystal. Light enters the front of the panel through a polarizing film, passes through the display, and then bounces off a reflective back coating. The display itself usually polarizes light in a way that matches the front polarizer. That means if you do nothing you get reflected light. However, if a part of the LCD gets an electric field, it will repolarize in such a way as to block the reflected light making the display look black in that area.

[Kelsey’s] trick is to peel off the reflector and replace it with polarizing film taken from another display. The new polarizer needs to be bigger than the display for one reason: you need to match the polarizing angle of the front film with the new back film. That means if the new film is exactly the right size, it won’t be able to rotate without leaving gaps. By starting with a larger piece, you’ll be able to rotate for maximum transparency before you stick it on.

We’ve seen some homemade transparent numeric displays. The transparent wood, though, has usually left something to be desired.

43 thoughts on “Transparent LCD Makes Everything Look Futuristic

  1. Most LCD screens can have this done, there are even commercial products that can do this, including a PC case. Also if you just need 7 segment then you can just search transparent LCD on your favorite supplier and get clocks that work well and can be repurposed.

        1. What if you had the image formed by lasers around the edge, and it bounced back and forth 300 times in decreasing concentric circles, internally reflected inside the lens, like a highly compact catadioptric telescope, and came into focus floating a foot in front of your face.

          1. All that, thin enough and yet for light to pass in from the front without altering the light passing from the front too? Wonder what the processing power needed.

            Much easier to have something injecting the signal to the optic nerve.

          2. I don’t think you need the light by the time you get to that point, just tiny electrodes. I believe there were some experiments to that effect carried out on blind volunteers.

    1. Depends entirely on your environment. Most backlit displays in full sunlight *suck*. Which is why I’ve seen laptop mods which convert the backlit LCD to a transparent one, which makes it awful in artificial light but surprisingly usable outdoors.

  2. My local liquor store has an upright cooler with the entire door being a LCD display that runs adds for a making-love-in-a-canoe quality beer that goes transparent when you approach so you can see the bottles inside. Funny thing is, the store keeps local brews inside, not the branded one. Still a pretty cool transparent display

    1. Oooh, I can’t wait until your next trip to Vegas… We’ve got slot machines with transparent complex curved displays these days. Go where the money is, I guess. They are very cool, although nobody else ever seems to get so excited about them.

  3. A see-through-display is the most useless display ever. Every Sci-Fi-Writer is not getting it. Think about News that are written on transparent foil instead of paper. Absolutely idiotic. The same goes to Displays where you can see the things you DON’T want to see, the things in the back, they disturb the things you WANT to see.

    While the TV manufacturers try to get the deepest/best “black”, the Sci-Fi-Authors simply think its cool to “remove” the black. Stupids.

    1. Unfortunately it’s been going on a long time! Just of the top of my head I think the first time I saw a transparent “chalk board” it was in the sub on “30K Leagues Under The Sea”, back in the 1970s. Then the cop shows started doing it. When tablets became a thing, set designers decided transparent tablets would be the future!

      About a year ago I had to change the LCD screen on my Lumix DMC-TZ5. Before I put the camera back together with the new display panel, I connected it up and discovered it was the same as a backlit laptop display, just very small. It worked OK if you held it up to the light, though the black areas were all see-through.

      Most people generally have no idea how things work, so if you show them something a bit out of the ordinary, they go “Oh coll! Can we have some too.” Pah!

  4. Could one combine a transparent OLED with a transparent LCD, the OLED doing the RGB and the LCD the K, as in CMYK?
    this would give the thing some contrast, as the article says, OLEDs lack a black component. Sure, the displays are not really transparent, and combining two of them would make the whole matter even worse, but I am sure the benefits would outweigh the trouble… lets try to make the displays more transparent and welcome the RGBK standard!

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