LG Display is showcasing its “Transparent OLED for Subway Trains” at InnoTrans 2022, the world’s largest trade fair for transport technology, where it will feature as a replacement for windows in a concept train from Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company. The OLED window can be transparent or opaque depending on what it’s displaying. LG Display is using the show in Berlin to expand transparent panel sales to North American and European transport companies.
LG Display has been supplying transparent OLED displays to transport companies in China and Japan since 2020, so we can already see it in action within a number of subway trains in major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shenzhen and Fuzhou, as well as within some of Japan’s overground trains. Seeing the transition between a mostly-transparent subway map and a more traditional screen displaying station layouts feels like we’re stepping ever closer to a world that was teased to us by Sci-Fi franchises like Star Trek.
The technology uses specialized tempered glass that gives its transparent OLED displays increased strength and durability to withstand vibrations and strong impacts, according to LG Display, allowing it to replace standard train windows. The company suggests some useful applications for the tech, such as displaying maps, news, and weather forecasts on screen while transparent, thereby retaining its use as an actual window.
My biggest concern however, is advertising, and LG Display has already mentioned this as yet another use for the technology. Would I be particularly disheartened if commercials replaced the usually grim view we see on subway networks? Potentially, but I have greater reservations about its application on overground rail systems.
It’s fine to let windows just be windows
One of my favorite highlights of living outside of a major city is commuting into them by train, watching the landscape fly past and appreciating the world outside. Depending on the frequency of advertising and infotainment, that experience could be lost. Perhaps I’m already frustrated by similar ‘innovations’ that replace perfectly good windows with electronic displays (I’m looking at you, smart fridges) but regular windows are fine. It’s fine to let windows just be windows.
Nevertheless, LG Display says it’s looking to expand use of its Transparent OLEDs within trains and subways across North America, Europe, Japan, and China. So it could be just a matter of time until they come to a public transportation system near you.