Canopy: A Virtual Skylight For Subway Trains

As a New Yorker I love the subway, but that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly complaining about it at the same time. So I’m blown away by Canopy, a project by Amrita KulkarniEmma Laurin and Matt Batchelor (who recently withdrew from the project).

Developed while studying at London’s Royal College of Art and shown at their recent graduation show, Canopy consists of virtual skylights which display the sky on the ceiling of subway trains.

The dynamic display system renders a new perspective of the passing environment overground. Non-reflective e-paper display panels are fixed to the ceiling, allowing for an unobtrusive display. Artists are invited to illustrate the environment on ground with an exaggerated three-point perspective suggesting depth of the train. Landmarks indicate location and journey progress, while an indicative sky offers visual continuity. Real-time travel information and contextual advertising helps travellers explore the city while engaging with the journey. The content is stored on an embedded PC in the carriage and updated via WiFi connection either at the depot or in the tunnel, depending on where service is available.

“As a diverse group of three design students at the Innovation Design Engineering course at the RCA, we came together to address a real-world issue and fundamental concern that by design intervention could help make lives better,” said Kulkarni and Laurin.

“Living in London, we were familiar with an underground commute and we realized that commuters on the underground today are detached from their environment, the city, the movement of the train, communities and events surrounding them. We wanted to add a new visual reference within the train to restore this sense of movement and place.”


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