As LCD displays have become less expensive and information to show on them has become more pervasive, we’ve become surrounded by glowing images. This situation takes its toll, as some people seek digital detox to relearn the ability to maintain focus.
Driving is an activity that demands focus, so the appeal of in-car digital detox is especially obvious. Continental Automotive has developed the ability to disguise its display screens as soothing surfaces such as wood to relieve eyes tired of seeing information broadcast at them from every direction.
The company calls this “ShyTech,” as if the displays are too bashful to be seen. It sounds like a welcome respite that is cheaper and simpler than Bentley’s Rotating Display. That is a three-sided dash panel that can rotate to reveal a display screen, a wood panel with traditional analog instruments embedded, or a plain wood panel.
As nice as Bentley’s solution is, Continental’s ShyTech seems more practical for the cars most of us can afford.
“As we’ve seen over just the last few years, an interior trend has been larger displays and more displays,” noted Jens Brandt, regional lead of Continental´s Business Area User Experience. “While these displays bring a lot of really cool features, it does bring up the concern for driver distraction,” he said.
“With that in mind, ShyTech offers a return to simplicity, an opportunity to make mobility safer, while maintaining all the features of displays without the distractions,” Brandt continued. “Our ShyTech Display solution provides not just a new way to interact with information, but a stress-free driving experience.”
All of us could surely benefit from the promise of a stress-free driving experience, but it seems unlikely that ShyTech can do anything about the other drivers on the road with us!
Still, there is the potential for real benefit here, as there is the potential to create something more soothing than a glowing display or a glaring blank screen. “When a traditional display is not in use, you’ll either have distracting or irrelevant content still present, or you’ll see an empty, shiny black screen,” he said. “With ShyTech, when display information isn’t needed, users will see a sleek and cohesive dashboard. Users can select from multiple different styles such as wood grain or leather.”
The flexibility to portray different surfaces presents designers with the opportunity to get creative with alternatives that drivers can choose from like we do with the wallpaper on our computer displays.
But ShyTech isn’t only about aesthetics. “It also addresses safety concerns,” said Brandt. “With the increase in our use of screens, that can bombard drivers with an information overload. ShyTech brings the attention and focus away from digital information to that on the physical roadway, thus potentially reducing traffic accidents and fatalities.”
It sounds good, but surely it is difficult to douse those glowing screens and replace them with the appearance of calming wood paneling, right? “Several components work together to make this award-winning display possible,” Brandt explained. “The display utilizes a specially designed matrix backlight that works in tandem with the LCD panel and custom-selected surface design using Continental developed optical bonding technologies.”
That “wood” surface is semi-transparent, so the display can shine through it when activated. With this as the main visible surface, Continental envisions it as a product that would stretch continuously across the full width of the dashboard, with displays hidden behind it where needed. Needed information can be summoned through the surface by touch, hand gesture, or voice, according to the company.
The result is a semi-transparent surface with information that can be pulled up either by touch, gesture, or voice. In principle, a ShyTech Display can actually be a pillar-to-pillar solution, utilizing the full width of the dashboard, or it can also be introduced to create a completely new interactive area for drivers and passengers where displays were not traditionally in use before.
If we are to be perpetually surrounded by display screens, having the ability to hide them in the background is surely a welcome option.