Car manufacturer Opel has completed a new prototype featuring pioneering projection dashboard technology. The prototype, unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show in September, displays animations and videos on the dashboard using a total of 18 Optoma ML550 ultra-portable projectors.
The company – part of the General Motors family – set out to create a concept car that would influence a new generation of Opel design for its future brand identity. It went back to the 1980s Opel Monza for inspiration – the first car to feature digital dashboard technology. The company aimed to create an equally innovative design, displaying instrument data, car entertainment and connectivity, for the new Monza Concept.
For this, Opel turned to the experience of London-based LCI Productions, which specialises in video mapping with multiple projectors.
After OLED screens were ruled out due to the unavailability of sufficiently flexible options, a projection solution was outlined. Eighteen ML550 ultra-portable projectors from Optoma were chosen as they were found to provide the best balance between brightness and physical size – 500 lumens from a unit measuring approximately 100 x 100 x 40 mm. These create several discrete rear-projection surfaces within the dashboard space, with the main instrument panel using 11 projectors to cover a 1.6m wide surface.
Three Delta hex head media servers from 7th Sense Design – compact 3U units with six outputs each – were selected to feed the 18 separate outputs, and were installed in the boot of the car, making the most of the limited space. Neutrik OpticalCON Split 12-core fibre optic cables link them to the projectors. The ability of the Delta servers to run uncompressed TGA sequences was found to greatly enhance the black levels compared to running encoded video files, which was vital for seamless blending of the projected images.
Also a large number of cooling fans were installed into the projection cassette as there was a lot of heat generated very quickly when all 18 projectors were turned on. After consultation with the Opel technicians it was decided to vent all of this excess heat out through the wheel arches of the car. Control over the projectors was also an issue, as they were small consumer level products with only IR control. So several IR over IP units were installed into the cassette to allow individual IR control over each projector, using commands sent over IP from the 7th Sense master server.
Animations and videos were handled by LCI’s creative division Foundry 55. The animation itself explored all the possible ways that a futuristic dashboard like this could potentially be used. This included for example driver recognition, synchronisation with external devices such as music players and phones, inbuilt navigation linked to social networks, and the ability for the driver to place each instrument or readout exactly where they desired within the space available on the screen surface.
Opel also wanted cameras to replace the traditional wing and rear view mirrors in the car, so three camera feeds were fed into the Delta media servers and built into the animation so that they could appear in multiple locations on the screen surface. In addition there were images which had to react to physical door opening and closing buttons being pressed on the dashboard – so the internal logic of the Delta servers was linked with the custom car control system to allow monitoring and feedback between the two systems.