Disney has Filed a Patent for a “Magic Surface” that can Become Transparent when Triggered

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What if there was a surface that looked like a wall, but when triggered, would become transparent and reveal objects behind it? Well, a recent patent published by Disney seems to show that they have created such a technology.

The best way to describe it is that this technology is it’s like a self-darkening window that keeps out sunlight without a shade. However, instead of just the window dark, this technology makes the window display an opaque image that can be “turned off” to become transparent.

Obvious applications would be a piece of a wall that could disappear to show a screen or object behind it. A diagram in the patent publication showed what looks like a chest with a cat inside becoming visible as the screen turned transparent.

What is unique about this patent is that it works in sunlight, such that projection technologies are not necessary. Typically this visual trick can be done in a darkened environment with a projector, but that is not possible in daylight.

Here’s how the patent describes the technology:

A display system for transforming sunlit and other brightly lit surfaces while being observed by viewers or an audience. The display system includes an optical element switchable between first and second operating states, and the optical element includes a pane that is opaque in the first operating state and transparent in the second operating state.

Where this technology will be used, if ever, is not immediately apparent but it does open a lot of possibilities for the theme parks.

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  • The has been around about 20 years already. The application was for windows which could become solid at the flip of a switch. Liquid Crystal Displays, LCD, work like this. The application for creating effects as in appearing Cats etc, seems to be the idea seeking patent; more the use of the technology in application, as compared to inventing the technology itself.

  • I’m wondering how this is different from liquid crystal glass that does exactly this already. That is, you apply a voltage to them and they go from black to transparent. This seems to simply be a usage of that technology, although maybe constructed using a new material or something. In either case will be interesting to see what they are going to do with it.

    • Indeed Indy and Randyland, I have no clue what the essencial meaning of this so called patent could be…
      Perhaps, it’s the cat not suffocating in the box !? :-)

  • Randyland and Indy, I’m guessing here but…

    The elctrochromic glass you’re talking about simply has two states, opaque or not. The only way to get an image onto the glass is to either project onto it from an exterior projector which then will either be on the whole time, or can be rigged up to the glass switch to turn off at the same time. Moreover, in direct sunlight you can still see shadows behind this glass, even when opaque.

    By adding an extra layer of whateter it is, the patent looks like they’re planning to make it such that you could walk past a wall, a wardrobe, a door, whatever, but then that wall itself disappears to show you what’s behind it. The difference being you didn’t know you were next to something that might disappear. This suggests it could have its own light source inside the tech.

    Either way without more info it will be difficult to verify.

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