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From the palm of our hands to the heart of our cars

From the palm of our hands to the heart of our cars

Back in the 1990s, mobile phones were just starting to find their way into pockets around the world. While these phones had tiny, simple, monochrome liquid crystal screens with limited resolution, displaying only text and simple graphics in varying tones of only one color, they were a starting point for many of the user interface (UI) technologies we experience today.

The cutting-edge displays we interact with nowadays were already being studied in Nokia’s secret laboratories back in the 1990s. Since then, our research has guided the evolution of display technologies from the humble screens of early 90s mobile phones to displays that augment human abilities by using various technologies. 

The evolution of mobile screens to revolutionizing automotive displays

Our thirty years of research still has an impact on how information is presented on various screens, including the organization and relevance of content, how different functionalities are integrated within a single display, and, ultimately, how we manage and interact with information across devices. For example, the elements of that research can be seen nowadays in car dashboards, which may consist of multiple screens that provide driver information, control units, and entertainment systems — inspired by mobile technology.

These days, car display systems can also consist of curved displays, paving the way for vehicles where any shape and form of surface can serve as an interface. For example, at CES 2024, we saw a 57-inch future automotive display that aims to transform car interiors into personalized living spaces. Our work on these features dates back to the 2000s when our researchers explored the possibilities and limitations of flexible display technologies.

Beyond touchscreens to interactive environments

However, that’s not all. Our research on flexible display technologies was followed by studies of flexible kinetic and 3D touch devices demonstrating how interaction with the displayed content could be augmented beyond the touchscreen. These further studies led to experiments that demonstrated how even a wall made of ice can be used as an interactive display – and mobile devices can even be used with gloves on or by touching another mobile device! While these demonstrations may sound unusual, they profoundly impacted the development of connected devices and their integration into the physical world. Computing interfaces can now be built or embedded into everyday objects such as tables, walls, or doors, turning physical objects into digital data products and services.

Augmented reality – the next frontier in augmented driving experience

At Nokia, we develop scalable technologies that can be used by multiple connected devices. Our principle is that those technologies can be used to create intuitive and efficient products that people want to use. Today, we envision enhancing the overall driving experience by further integrating augmented reality (AR) into automotive displays.

One of our key technologies in this area is exit pupil expander technology, a waveguide-based diffractive optics solution for implementing augmented reality displays. Our researchers have applied this technology to applications such as AR glasses and mobile device backlights, leveraging several decades of research in virtual and augmented reality user interface technologies. We are also developing exit pupil expander solutions for automotive applications. We believe that the fusion of augmented reality and the latest innovation in head-up displays is revolutionizing the automotive user experience.

Seamlessly integrating digital insights for safer, more convenient driving

Augmented Reality Head-Up Display (AR HUD) solutions based on our exit pupil expander technology can enhance the driving experience. Our innovative technology can augment crucial data such as speed, navigation prompts, traffic updates, and safety warnings onto the surroundings. This fusion of the physical and digital allows drivers to access vital information while maintaining uninterrupted focus on the road, significantly boosting both safety and convenience.

However, our ambition extends beyond mere visibility. Our goal is to connect the physical, digital, and human worlds and turn vehicles from transportation machines into personalized devices that augment the drivers’ abilities.

Nokia introduced PureView camera technology about ten years ago, revolutionizing mobile imaging. Today, we envision advanced imaging and sensing technologies that actively monitor and adapt to capture a complete picture of the driver’s immediate surroundings. We are dedicated to interpreting these real-time dynamics both inside and around the vehicle, transforming raw data into actionable insights for the driver.

Connecting people to what matters - the human touch in display technology

Nokia has been at the forefront of communications technology for more than thirty years, and during that time, we have also pioneered display technology. Our technologies have laid a foundation that continues to influence the industry and help people access and stay connected to what matters. Changing how drivers interact with their vehicles is just one example.

Marja Salmimaa

About Marja Salmimaa

Marja Salmimaa is an alumna of Nokia Bell Labs and Nokia Research Center. Currently, she works as a Distinguished Research Leader at Nokia. She has more than two decades of technical and leadership experience in the development of advanced user interfaces, display technologies, and optical systems. Marja has authored over 45 scientific journal and conference papers and holds 60 patents and patent applications. In her free time, she loves traveling with friends and family and dedicates her time to mobile photography and music in all its forms.

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