Travelling the globe remains a challenge as we quickly approach our third year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. To help stave off cabin fever, Alex Shakespeare built themselves a fake window that simulates a live view from different cities around the world, but how it’s controlled might be the best part.
As LCD and OLED displays have grown bigger with better colour reproduction and impressive resolutions that make it all but impossible for the human eye to see individual pixels, it’s getting harder and harder to discern when you’re looking at a screen, or when you’re looking out a window at the real world. Back in 2014, Royal Caribbean even started putting 80-inch 4K screens in the windowless cabins of its Quantum of the Seas ship so that travellers on a budget could enjoy a simulated view of what was going on outside the ship fed by a live-streamed camera.
So Shakespeare is far from the first hardware hacker to turn a giant flat panel display into a fake window, but he did come up with a novel way to change the view the window provides. Nearby is a map of the world hanging on the wall featuring glowing LED lights on five different cities including Amsterdam and Las Vegas. Instead of reaching for a TV remote or a laptop, simply repositioning a small magnetic aeroplane on any of these five cities on the map updates the window’s view, courtesy of cameras that stream a live view of each one all day long.
Shakespeare took the fake window effect one step further to make it appear even more realistic. Mounted to the ceiling above the map is a thermal camera that tracks the movement and position of the person standing in front of it. As they move from side to side, the on-screen view slightly shifts from side to side, creating a parallax effect that mirrors what it’s like to look out an actual window. Where Shakespeare’s creation outperforms a real window is when the weather turns bad, he can simply reposition the plane and swap out the view for a city where conditions are more pleasant and cheerful.