One complaint I hear all the time about today's car interiors is that infotainment screens often look and feel like afterthoughts. Whether you encrust the screen into the dash for a seamless look or place it atop to free up space, these screens often look like plasticky add-ons that can easily ruin an otherwise aesthetically pleasing cabin. Continental would like to change that, and its new see-through infotainment display made by Swarovski could usher in a new era of automotive interior design.
Unveiled at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show, the 10-inch display is made completely from Swarovski crystal. You may have heard of Swarovski through those little figurines your grandma loved to collect, but the Austrian company actually has an entire division dedicated to mobility products like Mercedes-Benz S-Class headlights.
The unit itself is frameless, slightly tinted, and features MicroLEDs that project whatever information is being fed to the display. One of the big advantages is that it's transparent, so occupants can admire the dash or whatever is behind the screen. This approach has solid potential to be revolutionary for designers, especially in the luxury car realm.
According to Continental, the self-illuminating pixels "offer much greater brightness and superior contrast than comparable technologies," though it did not clarify whether this or future versions of the display would feature touchscreen capabilities.
“The Crystal Center Display is the result of a combination of production and process technologies which together with Continental we implemented into an innovative new design element—one that is as impressive visually as it is technically,” said Peter Widmann, senior vice president B2B and managing director at Swarovski Mobility in a press release. “In this way, our crystal becomes much more than just an interior design element—users experience it as a key interaction interface in the vehicle.”
Besides the fancy, look-at-me aspect of the faceted display, Continental and Swarovski's product finally brings to life the hundreds of transparent fake displays we've seen in concept cars over the years. I immediately think of the cool Lincoln Envision concept from 2022, which features similar faceted screens and controls made to look like diamonds.
So, at the very least, this technology could be used in prototypes to bring them closer to reality—or who knows, maybe we'll see it in full-fledged production cars soon.
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