GM's Windows of Opportunity project turns car windows into interactive displays


January 18, 2012

GM's Windows of Opportunity project asked students to design interactive applications that rear seat passengers would interact with through their side windows

GM's Windows of Opportunity project asked students to design interactive applications that rear seat passengers would interact with through their side windows

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In-car DVD players and handheld game consoles have proven a godsend to parents looking to avoid the regular cries of "are we there yet?" from kids in the back seat. Similar to Toyota's "Window to the World" concept, GM's "Windows of Opportunity" (WOO) project looks to advance back seat entertainment even further. The project saw the automaker giving researchers and students from the FUTURE LAB at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel free reign to design applications that rear seat passengers would interact with through their side windows, which act as interactive displays.

To inspire the students and let their creative juices run free when creating their applications, GM made it clear that it didn't have any immediate plans to put interactive display windows into production vehicles. However, the company said if they were to be put into production, they would likely use electronically charged "smart glass" technology, which can reflect projected images and is capable of variable translucence and transparency.

To demonstrate their applications, the students produced a full-scale functional prototype of a rear passenger seat and side window. The window was given multi-touch and gesture sensing capabilities using motion and optical sensor technology developed by interactive media display company EyeClick.

Here's a selection of the apps the students came up with: Otto:

Features an animated character that is projected over passing scenery that responds to the car's speed, the weather and the landscape in real time.


Essentially an update of an old favorite with passengers able to draw on colored window condensation.


Literally provides a window to the world by letting passengers select a location on an interactive globe and projecting images from other user's windows at that location in real time.


Lets passengers stream and share music with other cars on the road, download tracks, and display messages written on the window with passengers in other cars.

"Traditionally, the use of interactive displays in cars has been limited to the driver and front passenger, but we see an opportunity to provide a technology interface designed specifically for rear seat passengers," said Tom Seder, GM R&D; lab group manager for human-machine interface. "Advanced windows that are capable of responding to vehicle speed and location could augment real world views with interactive enhancements to provide entertainment and educational value."

Whether any of the applications ever actually make it into production vehicles remains to be seen, but GM 's Omer Tsimhoni says such projects are invaluable as working with outside designers "brings fresh perspective to vehicle development. WOO is just one of many projects underway at GM that could reinvent the passenger experience in years to come."

Here's a video from GM detailing the WOO project.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

I do not care what GM comes up with. They bailed and made their stock worthless and people lost all their money and then with their new IPO they didn\'t offer anything to the old stock holders!? GM can burn, I will never own another GM product.


Windows are made to look through. If a window isn\'t needed for seeing outside it wouldn\'t have been designed in. So, at night would these light up, making it impossible for the driver to see something in the blind spot?


Gives the kids something to play with while they wait for the tow truck to haul thier broken down GM to the garage. GM needs to focus on reliability and not more gadgets that will break.

Joseph Shimandle

Great! GM is perpetuating yet another vehicle distraction in the name of entertainment to the detriment of concentration & safety.


All pretty weak ideas.

I can\'t believe that NONE of them came up with an AR (augmented reality) application that shows you MORE than what is actually there. Naturally, it couldn\'t work with items close to the car (yet) because it wouldn\'t be able to update fast enough, but in a slow moving or stopped car it could. Based on the speed of the car it would know how far out it COULD work.

Fred Raimondi

I can think of so many reasons why this idea is bad. But what comes to mind first is that GM should stop coming up with new gizmos that are potentially unsafe and fix the really bad systems in their vehicles. For instance, dash clusters that suddenly stop working leaving the driver unsure of speed, gas in the tank, and temp of the engine. Add to that their faulty windshield wiper motors that conk out suddenly and could cause a deadly accident. They need to focus on being responsible and not on being cutting edge.

Carol Wilkerson

Just wait for the interactive windshield and rear window. Side-view mirrors will shrink or disappear in favor of cameras and associated displays at the bottom corners of the windshield. All data, including GPS and forward-looking infra-red can be displayed on the windshield (and made configurable /moveable / user customizable). The rear window will be used for emergency messages, advertising, as a sun shade or blinking strobe for white-out and foggy conditions. Predict that, once again, North American car makers and investment banks will fail to develop & produce these products and that European or Asian car makers will be first to market.


If only GM would focus on designing great cars... they should go back to basics. While the cars have improved they are not a patch on competitors. Top end German cars are streets ahead (along with Lexus)... The middle ground is very crowded and GM is not in the race and the lower end has no margin in it and is dominated by Koreans and Chinese product that will only get better...Hyundai is already taking the best value spot in nearly all segments of the car market (including the upper end.)


Wow, are you guys really that out of touch and hard assed that you dont see how cool this would be for your kids? I distinctly remember being the back seat of the car on a decent length trip gazing out the window imaging all sorts of things. My fingers running along the top of the door panel imagining my \"little dude\" is running along side of us jumping the banks and whatever else may come zooming by. This just a high tech version of that. Now the kids really do have a character to control along the roadside landscape as you zips by. Granted is a little strange but damn, which I had something like this 25 years ago! :)

Electronic Enes

JD Powers recently released a list of the automobiles that customers liked most and were likely to purchase again. GM was not on the list. An automobile is is means of transportation, and is not a home theater. GM needs to concentrate on making better, lighter, comfortable, and fuel efficient vehicles that customers want to buy, that customers will like when they\'ve bought it, and will buy from GM again. They are a long way from this business fundamental right now.

Once again, GM\'s leadership is muddled and lost. Tech toys will not push their cars and company to success. Apparently they have learned nothing.


8 whiners and 2 positive comments. Whiners contribute NOTHING to progress. I won\'t defend GM\'s upper management because they\'ve made some really bad business decisions, but the engineers and middle management really lead the field. If you can\'t comment on the article, GO AWAY.

When Heads Up displays first came out I grabbed the first vehicle that suited my needs. It turned out to be a Pontiac Aztec. I\'m spoiled. Now I\'d rather see the entire instrument suite on the windscreen. This tech should be employed in all cars as a safety feature.


You guys did catch the part where these concepts were developed by students, right? Or that Toyota is already doing something similar? Right??

While I think this is an interesting idea, I think this sort of tech should really be used to advance vehicle safety first (instrumentation and real-time warnings displayed on the windshield, etc), then work on back-seat entertainment. Still, it\'s nice to see car companies working on new ideas.

Andrew Christianson
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