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Android kitchen computers offer transparent touchscreens

Apr 21, 2014  |  Eric Brown

Cloudproject and Elam Kitchen have launched a line of Android-based home furnishings and appliances that feature transparent multitouch displays.

Embedded technology firm Cloudproject Generation S.r.l. and Elam Kitchen of the Tisettanta Group have begun shipping the first in their series of computers that offer transparent displays built into windows and mirrors. The two Italian firms have combined Elam’s furnishings with Cloudproject’s Android-based Andromeda and Pocket Key mini-PCs.



Elam/Cloudproject demonstration video screen
(click image to enlarge)

The highlight of the systems are their transparent touchscreen displays, which are modified versions of new Samsung and LG displays, according to an email from Cloudproject CEO Cristiano Fumagalli. The touchscreens are said to be augmented with voice-activated controls. Other systems offer standard touchscreens built into appliances and countertops.

In the collaborative agreement, Cloudproject is the exclusive partner to Elam Kitchen “for the development of smart furnishing complements and customised furnishings featuring touch technology and voice-activated controls for both the office and the home,” states Cloudproject’s news release. Additionally, the systems are said to be “completely” customizable, both in terms of their “prized finishing materials” and their dimensions.



Cloudproject Andromeda (left) and Pocket Key mini-PCs

 
At the core of the new Elam systems are one of two Android-based Cloudproject mini-PCs: the Andromeda and the smaller HDMI stick Pocket Key. The devices, which are developed by Cloudproject and built in China, are also sold separately for consumer (Pocket Key) and enterprise (Andromeda) customers.

The standard configuration for these very similar mini-PCs is an unnamed quad-core, ARM Cortex-A9 system-on-chip clocked to 1.6GHz and featuring a Mali 400 GPU. This is likely a Rockchip RK3188, but it could also be a Samsung Exynos 4412. As with most aspects of the highly customizable Elam smart appliances, however, the processor comes with several options. You can also select Cortex-A15 and -A17 SoCs, as well as Intel Core i3 and i5 processors, says Fumagalli. In addition, the systems can be purchased with Windows 8.1 as an alternative to the standard Android 4.4.2 (KitKat).

The Andromeda and Pocket Key each ship with 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 8GB of flash, augmented with a microSD slot for up to 32GB of storage. They are further equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and both HDMI and 10/100 Ethernet ports. While the smaller Pocket Key is limited to a USB host port, the Andromeda offers two, as well as an optical audio out. The Andromeda also ships with VDI Client, with VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft RDP support.

In the Elam systems, the Andromeda and Pocket Key mini-PCs are available with an OEM-built HD camera with Carl Zeiss lens and a high quality microphone, says Fumagalli. Other options include a remote control and QWERTY keyboard.



Elam/Cloudproject kitchen computer
(click image to enlarge)

Cloudproject and Elam have posted a YouTube video of a flagship Elam model that offers a touchscreen built into a transparent kitchen counter backsplash (see farther below). Cloudproject’s website also shows some transparent home appliance sketches by designer Luca Medici of My-Home Kitchen Designs that were developed with Cloudproject (see below). It’s unclear how much these have in common with the Elam designs, however.


Prototype designs from Luca Medici of My-Home Kitchen Designs featuring Cloudproject technology
(click images to enlarge)

 
Transparent touchscreens touch down

Transparent touchscreens have been mainstays of science fiction shows for years, and now they’re finally becoming available in the real world. In the Elam systems, see-through touchscreens from Samsung and LG are available with custom touchscreen drivers and other modifications developed by Cloudproject. To interface with the displays, the Andromeda and Pocket Key computers are augmented with a custom control board developed by the company. Fumagalli offered no details on specific models.



Samsung NL22B prototype
(click image to enlarge)

Samsung was one of the first to show off transparent displays, and in 2012, it announced an NL22B display for signage applications that offers optional touchscreen support. The NL22B is shipping now, and the touchscreen version is available in a rectangular form-factor that’s more than 14 inches thick (see image below). The idea is that retailers can place sales goods in the box, then program the touchscreen to provide more information when customers point at an object.


Samsung NL22B model with rectangular enclosure for display items

In December, 2013, Samsung filed a patent for a transparent smartphone screen that offers touch support on the back of the phone, according to BGR. Last month, a Wall Street Journal said Samsung filed a patent for a transparent camera screen.

At CES 2014, meanwhile, LG stepped up with prototypes of touchscreen-enabled transparent and mirrored displays, according to a TechnoBuffalo. The 55mm transparent display had a color gamut of 68 percent and transmittance of 11 percent, says the story. There was no word on availability, but LG already sells a non-touch, 47-inch transparent display called the 47TS30MF.

 
Further information

The first Android-based Elam Kitchen home furnishings and appliances appear to be available now, and can be seen in the retailer’s Milan showroom. In the coming months, new showrooms will be inaugurated in New York, London, Dubai, and Turkey. More information on the Andromeda and Pocket Key mini-PCs are available on the Cloudproject website, and a PDF datasheet for a similar transparent touchscreen prototype designed by Luca Medici may be found here. More on the Elam Kitchens products can be found on this YouTube video, and more should eventually appear at the Elam Kitchens website.
 

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