Turning buildings into screens? We can do that, says Hong Kong inventor in advertising first

Technology turns glass panes into video screens and could soon gauge the age and gender of passers-by – and their attention span

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 9:43am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 10:11pm

Video is coming to a pane of glass near you as Hong Kong inventors look to change the face of advertising and entertainment in Asia.

“We could actually turn a whole building into a screen,” said Crystal Fok Lo-ming, 34, one of the developers of “video glass”, a system that turns an ordinary pane of glass of any shape or size into a projection screen.

“It’s like magic,” said Robert Chua Wah-peng, who was part of the launch team at broadcaster TVB and is now business partner to Fok and scientist Lee Shungchi at Electronic Digital Out Of Home, or Edooh.

A plastic polymer film is attached to the surface of the glass. When a small electrical current stops passing through it, it frosts, allowing an overhead projector mounted just a metre away to play videos across the surface, without interference from passers- by. The glass can also be modified to become a touch screen by adding motion sensors.

The technology is being tested at the Mia Cucina Towngas kitchen showroom in Paterson Street, Causeway Bay. What is a regular shop window by day becomes an advertising space by night, showing images of delicious food and kitchen appliances.

The core technology was developed in South Korea, where the plastic polymer film has been used in hotel bathrooms, allowing the glass shower door to become frosted or clear at the flick of a switch. Fok has since adapted the polymer to reduce glare.

Her company has also created a program that allows any video to be adapted to any screen size without reducing the original quality of the video. Companies in the United States, Britain and South Korea are using similar technology in advertising displays and home cinema.

Edooh hopes to take the technology further by creating a program that can detect how long someone looks at an advertisement, their age and gender. Fok thinks it will help retail space generate money 24 hours a day.

“It’s extra revenue while your business is closed for the evening,” said Chua, who added that the company would not sell directly to property developers.

However, the display at Mia Cucina has caught the eye of the building’s developers who plan to use it to advertise a new building project, said Fok.

Edooh is developing another use for the technology which would allow shoppers to scan their body and create a 3D virtual model of themselves that could test out clothes before they buy them online.

The technology has been developed with funding of about HK$12 million from the Hong Kong government.

As for the cost, Fok says that where a 100-inch TV would have aprice tag of around HK$100,000, one of her polymer screens measuring twice the size would be just a third of that price.

Watch: Sample of the glass screen done for Evisu in Beijing