Did that mannequin just move? It might not be your imagination. Hitachi’s new AirSho imaging system projects dynamic pictures onto nearly invisible glass surfaces, such as a storefront window.
The system displays full-motion images?generated by a PC or DVD player?that give the illusion of appearing out of nowhere. It uses a floor- or ceiling-mounted projector that shines video onto a photopolymer-resinous Plexiglas display. The 40- or 60-inch diagonal screen sticks to the window’s surface with water?like a decal. “It’s similar to a screen, but you can actually see right through it while an image is appearing,” says Ray Soltys, a spokesman for Hitachi America’s Digital Media Division.
Stores, shopping malls, travel agencies, banks, airports and a variety of other businesses can use the system for advertising and informational purposes. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from retail chains that want the ability to control and update in-store advertising from a central location via networked PCs,” says Soltys.
The system is a slick combination of cutting-edge materials and optical engineering. The screen consists of a 60-nanometer film of photopolymer resin glued to a piece of Plexiglas. The film itself is laser etched to create tiny prisms. Each prism must be angled precisely, and the Plexiglas must contain no air bubbles so that the projected light can follow a path directly into the viewers’ eyes.
The display doesn’t reflect sunlight, but a bright day?or powerful external lighting?can dim images. Also, like most other projection systems, AirSho provides diminished visibility to viewers standing at the screen’s sides. “The best viewing angle is dead-on, looking straight at it,” says Soltys.
AirSho is priced at $5,963 and $8,330 for the 40- and 60-inch models, respectively. For some retailers, that will be a small price to pay to catch the attention of potential customers.