Transparent And Foldable Displays

Transparent And Foldable Displays

As part of a university course, my team and I designed a concept and developed a video prototype for a transparent device. Through using mobile Augmented Reality, it supports travellers to learn about a place and become familiar with it.

Tools and Knowledge

  • Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
  • User-Centered Design
  • Personas and Scenarios
  • Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA)

The Result

Let’s first dive into the result at the end of the course. Since back then and even now there are no purely transparent handheld devices to use for prototyping, we decided to build a prototypical device ourselves and demonstrate our concept and designed application in a video. It shows how the device can be used as a travel guide on a walk through the city of Dresden.

What we did

The goal of the course was to go to the complete design process for a user interface from the beginning, the analysis, to creating a prototype.

Analysis Phase

After receiving the topic of transparent (and potentially foldable) displays for our project, we decided that we wanted to create a prototypical device that supports tourists when visiting new places: a digital travel guide. We, first, conducted half structured interviews with potential users to identify tasks and challenges while travelling. Since travelling can have many different reasons, we tried to interview a fairly diverse set of people with different styles of travelling.

Based on these interviews, we decided on supporting the following tasks:

  • Finding a restaurant and ordering food in a foreign-speaking country
  • Accessing information about a landmark
  • Planning a route with public transit

We further analyzed our potential users and our tasks by creating Personas and accompanying Scenarios and doing a Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA).

Design Phase

Even back in 2014, when we worked on the project, smart phones were already little digital assistants that could help people when they were travelling. Therefore, it was essential that having a transparent, foldable display instead of a smartphone was of immense benefit. We saw this advantage in two aspects: 1. We can look through a transparent display and the image quality does not suffer (yes, that was a thing back then) and 2. we can directly place the device on top of other objects which connects them content-wise.

We tried to leverage the transparency and still keep familiar interaction techniques by supporting the two aforementioned aspects by providing two modes for each task: the camera mode while holding the device vertically in your hand and the tablet mode while placing it horizontally on a surface.

We designed our device and our views that we needed for the two modes by creating detailed mockups that are shown below.

Lessons Learned

In retrospective, I have to say that I learned a lot doing this project since we started with a very abstract task and had to go the full way from analysis to design and prototyping. I found it especially interesting that the features and techniques we proposed in 2013 were not new or groundbreaking but they are convenient and actually supporting people. From time to time, I discovered some of the features in smartphone apps, such as Google Translate or Google Maps, which always gave me a little affirmation that what we created made sense. Smartphone apps are obviously not nearly as cool as a transparent, bendable display but we’ll get there at some point 😄.