LG’s transparent TV. Credit: LG

It’s Clear to Me

Kim Bellard
5 min readJan 15, 2024

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I didn’t make it to this year’s CES, the “most powerful tech event in the world,” as its organizers like to brag, where the latest and greatest in technology gets shown off. Then again, I’ve never been to any CES, so, as usual, I’ve had to settle for reading various recaps. There was, as always, lots of cool stuff, but the thing I keep coming back to were the transparent screens.

I’ve long complained that screens are an outdated concept, a 20th century technology that we should be ready to move beyond. I’m ready for holograms, eyeball displays, or other non-screen approaches. Transparent screens don’t quite get us there but they get us closer, helping us forget that there is a screen involved in whatever display we see.

Let’s start with LG, which unveiled “the world’s first wireless transparent OLED TV.” LG brags it “is a true technological marvel, combining a transparent 4K OLED screen and LG’s wireless video and audio transmission technology to transform the screen experience in ways that have never been possible before…giving users the unprecedented freedom to meticulously curate their living spaces.”

LG promises:

Its transparent OLED screen removes the usual constraints that come with conventional TVs. No longer does the TV have to be placed against the wall. Instead, place the OLED T in the middle of the room to become a divider or prop it against the window without blocking the view outside.

LG’s transparent OLED lets owners discover new forms of entertainment and use via its dual viewing experiences: transparent and opaque. The OLED T becomes a transparent digital canvas for showcasing artwork, videos or photos with the Always-On-Display (AOD) feature. Content displayed on the transparent screen appears to float in air, yet simultaneously fuses with the surrounding space to create a compelling and atmospheric visual effect.

Chris Welsh, writing in The Verge, marveled: “I’ve looked through LG’s new transparent OLED TV and seen something special.” He wasn’t as impressed by how great a TV experience it ended up being, noting: “You’re making objective sacrifices for the transparency trick, so it’s worth considering how quickly the novelty of this TV might wear off.” But he did admit: “there were times when the TV’s transparency mode gave off a sense of depth that really messed with my brain.”

Similarly, CNET’s David Katzmaier said it was “one of the coolest TVs I’ve ever seen.” When first entering the demo suite, he at first didn’t realize it was a screen. He concluded: “A TV that can effectively disappear and transform into furniture, art or a fish tank, the OLED TV succeeds brilliantly…To add to the cool factor, the OLED T uses the company’s wireless transmission technology.” The only cord or wire is the power cord.

Both reviewers admitted it wasn’t the best TV display, and certainly is pricey, but both appear quite impressed.

Meanwhile, Samsung unveiled its MICRO LED, “showing the world that there are infinite possibilities for screens.” The company claims: “The screen, which looks like a piece of transparent glass, boasts an extremely small MICRO LED chip and precision manufacturing process that eliminates seams and light refraction. This allows the transparent MICRO LED to create a clear, unobstructed picture for various use cases in both homes and B2B environments.”

Engadget’s Sam Rutherford wrote: “In person, the effect Samsung’s transparent micro OLED displays have is hard to describe, as content almost looks like a hologram as it floats in mid-air. The demo unit was freestanding and measured only about a centimeter thick, which adds even more to the illusion of a floating screen.” He further noted that images looked “incredibly sharp.”

Becky Scarrott of Techradar described the MICRO LED “as transparent as regular glass, and also boasts a design devoid of any physical frame,” marveling that the result was “like a hologram.” Mr. Katzmaier acknowledged: “I’ve reviewed hundreds of TVs, and in my short time with Samsung’s concept displays, the Micro-LED version did indeed look the best, especially in terms of brightness and color.”

Honestly, I don’t really care much about improving people’s TV experience. Most people seem to upgrade their TVs a lot more regularly than I do, and spend a lot more money. I’m not that discerning and I don’t need huge screens. What I am intrigued by, though, is making screens less obtrusive, whether they are TV screens, computer screens, or smartphone screens. I want images to seemingly appear out of nowhere, like magic.

If we can’t have holograms (yet), transparent screens might not be a bad interim solution.

Imagine, for example, a physician using a two-sided transparent screen for the EHR. Instead of the screen being a distraction that gets in the way of focusing on the patient, the doctor could use it facing the patient, with the patient seeing the same text/images the physician sees, appearing to simply float in the air.

Another example of the power of transparency is a result from the University of California San Diego. Researchers there developed a neural implant that can provide information about brain activity deep inside the brain even though sitting on the surface.

I won’t try to go into the woods about what it does, but the researchers note:

Transparency is one of the key features of this neural implant. Traditional implants use opaque metal materials for their electrodes and wires, which block the view of neurons beneath the electrodes during imaging experiments. In contrast, an implant made using graphene is transparent, which provides a completely clear field of view for a microscope during imaging experiments.

“We are expanding the spatial reach of neural recordings with this technology,” said study senior author Duygu Kuzum, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the advances in transparent wood — yes, you read that right. Jude Coleman of Knowable Magazine wrote: “Transparent wood could soon find uses in super-strong screens for smartphones; in soft, glowing light fixtures, and even as structural features, such as color-changing windows.

Or maybe in your next transparent TV.

One way or another, I’m excited to see where the technology around transparency is going to take us.

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Kim Bellard

Curious about many things, some of which I write about — usually health care, innovation, technology, or public policy. Never stop asking “why” or “why not”!