Japan engineers have created a working prototype for the Toyota Prius that effectively projects video from outside the car, on the cars’ walls and backseat, creating the effect of a see-through car
With the help of projectors, cameras, and special mirrors, two Japanese scientists have created a “transparent” car. Susumu Tachi and Masahiko Inami of Keio University, Japan, created a working prototype for the Toyota Prius that effectively projects video from outside the car, on the cars walls and backseat, creating the effect of a see-through car.
Aside from the fun of riding in a car that is largely invisible (at least to you), the main benefit of the technology is increased safety to people outside the car. Rendering the sides of the car invisible helps prevent blind spots, while making the backseat transparent means you can spot objects and people who are below the line of sight of your rearview mirror.
One of the key innovations of the current prototype is its ability to allow the driver see both out of the rear window while still observing the virtual image projected onto the back seat. This was achieved with the help of special mirror, which simultaneously reflected the image from a projector onto the seat while still allowing the driver to see through it to the rear window.
Tachi and Inami point out in their article on Spectrum that the same technology could be used in airplanes as well, giving pilots complete freedom of vision when landing their plane.
This technology certainly isn’t new. The concept of optical camouflage – where imagery from a camera is projected onto an object, making it harder to spot – has been in development for years. It is of particular interest for military and law enforcement use, where superior camouflage is a key tactical advantage. Instead of wearing colors that generally reflect their surroundings, soldiers and vehicles would benefit from a system that conformed more closely with their specific environment.
However, to date, most applications of the technology have focused on camouflaging the outside of an object – rendering it invisible to an external observer. For example, Mercedes covered a car in led lights to achieve a partially invisible effect as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign to illustrate that their car was “invisible to the environment”. In the current example, the reverse effect was being achieved, by making the object invisible to those inside it.