Google showcases its work on hidden interfaces for Ambient Computing

Google showcases its work on hidden interfaces for Ambient Computing

To create devices that blend seamlessly with your surroundings, Google is working on hidden interfaces that remain invisible unless in use. The company’s idea behind this move is to “create ambient computing devices and appliances that can preserve the aesthetics of everyday materials, while providing on-demand access to interaction and digital displays.” In a recent blog post, Google Research has showcased its work on hidden interfaces for ambient computing and highlighted the innovative technologies used to create high-brightness, low-cost displays that can appear from underneath materials like textile, wood veneer, acrylic, or one-way mirrors.


Google notes that AMOLED displays are not ideal for ambient computing devices as they are too expensive and complex to manufacture. Low-cost LCD and electronic ink displays also aren’t suitable as they “do not have sufficient brightness to penetrate materials.” Therefore, the company has settled with passive-matrix OLEDs (PMOLEDs) that offer “a simple design that significantly reduces cost and complexity.” However, the company notes that PMOLEDs typically use scanline rendering, “where active driver circuitry sequentially activates one row at a time, a process that limits display brightness and introduces flicker.”

To overcome this issue, Google proposes a system that uses parallel rendering instead of scanline rendering, increasing brightness and reducing flicker. Using this solution, Google has developed proof-of-concept hidden interfaces that “use a PMOLED display with 128×96 resolution that has all row and column drivers routed to a connector for direct access. We use a custom printed circuit board (PCB) with fourteen 16-channel digital-to-analog converters (DACs) to directly interface those 224 lines from a Raspberry Pi 3 A+. The touch interaction is enabled by a ring-shaped PCB surrounding the display with 12 electrodes arranged in arc segments.”

The resulting hidden interface prototypes demonstrate bright and expressive rendering underneath everyday materials, as shown in the attached GIF. While these interfaces are a major step up from the hidden indicator that Google currently uses on its Nest Audio smart speaker, they still show basic information. Google now plans to add images and complex vector graphics to the mix and created efficient hardware designs. For more details on the technology, check out the original blog post by following the source link below.

It’s worth mentioning that these hidden interactive interfaces are still in the prototype stage and you shouldn’t expect to see them on a Google product anytime soon.

Source: Google AI Blog

About author

Pranob Mehrotra
Pranob Mehrotra

A Literature and Linguistics graduate with a keen interest in everything Android. When not writing about tech, Pranob spends most of his time either playing League of Legends or lurking on Reddit.

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