Car sun visors are a double-edged sword. Yes, they stop annoying rays from shining directly into your eyeballs, which means you don't have to squint or immediately grab a pair of sunglasses. But if you pull down that flappy bit of plastic, it also obscures at least some of the road that you're driving on, which isn't ideal from a safety perspective. Bosch might have a solution: a transparent liquid crystal display (LCD) that tracks your face and only blocks the *precise* section where the sun would blind you. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. Is it better than what we have now? I think so.
At CES 2020, I stepped into a makeshift 'car' that comprised of an office desk, laptop and webcam, Bosch's so-called Virtual Visor and a tiny tarpaulin roof. It wasn't the most immersive experience, but I did my best to ignore the convention hubbub and pretend I was driving down Route 66 in a classic Ford Mustang. A Logitech webcam recorded my imaginary driving and some algorithms correctly deduced which parts of the image contained my face. The tracking was perfect and the LCD panel darkened the correct areas to ensure a nearby torch never reached my retinas.
The experience wasn't flawless, though. The "transparent" sections of the LCD panel, for instance, are actually 50 percent transparent. I could make out objects just fine -- it was like looking through a light fog or a windscreen that hadn't been washed in six months. Still, that level of transparency is better than most sunglasses, a Bosch spokesperson told me, and increases your overall visibility of the road dramatically. I didn't have a pair of Ray-Bans to hand, so I had to take his word for it. I can confirm, however, that the Virtual Visor is better than a piece of plastic.
For now, it's just a prototype. Bosch said it's talking to car manufacturers and commercial fleet operators, though, to see if the concept can be taken further. The upsides are obvious, though I would miss those tiny sun visor mirrors that let you check whether you still have crumbs on your face.