Audi's Swarm concept reinvents the humble taillight
March 15, 2013
Practically, this may be a terrible idea, but as a tech demo, it's an excellent illustration of OLED, and its potential to kick holes in the divide between what we think of as display technology and what we think of as lighting technology. The concept is called Swarm, and is in essence an ultra wide aspect ratio TV placed on a car's derrière where the taillights should be. The idea is that the swooping, fluid animations displayed will relay all sorts of useful information to other road users.
What sort of information can be relayed? Braking and indicating turns are a good start, obviously. Additionally, though, Audi suggests that the car's speed, the behavior of other traffic and even pitches and turns in the road could be relayed through various combinations of patterns and color. In effect, the car becomes a sort of benevolent autonomous sentinel.
The objection is obvious: that Swarm could prove more distracting than useful, and therefore be a potential hazard to other drivers. A spokesperson for the UK's Automobile Association has been widely reported as sounding a note of caution. "The Swarm is a delightful concept design but under current lighting regulations it is probably best saved for aquariums or art galleries," they said.
In the description of a YouTube video of the technology posted at the AudiAustralia account, the company hints that OLEDs may one day cover the car's entire body, inside and out, allowing animations that may highlight the door handle to the approaching driver (Audi's idea) or glow when orcs are near (my idea). Maybe people will just use it to sell advertising space on their car.
Swarm is version 0.1 of this theoretical OLEDified automobile of the future. Audi describes it as "a large, continuous light surface, with innumerable small points of light flickering like a swarm of fish." We look forward to version 0.2: "shoal of bees."
Oblig vid below...