You probably remember Richard Branson's April Fool's joke about Virgin producing glass-bottomed planes. I figured this next bit of news might be a gag too, but apparently this proposal for a virtually invisible passenger airplane is sincere.
Put forth by the UK's Centre for Process Innovation, a science/engineering/technology incubator, this "Windowless Fuselage" concept is intended to save fuel and reduce emissions. The CPI's thinking is that commercial airplanes have windows for the passengers' comfort, but that if the windows could be jettisoned from the design, airplanes could be made lighter and thus save on fuel. To offset the feeling of sitting inside a tin can, airplanes would then be lined with ultrathin, flexible plastic screens covering the interior surfaces and even the seatbacks.
These screens, the concept goes, could serve as mere lighting, or the entertainment systems, or be linked to external cameras to provide the impression of flying al fresco. The screens could even "allow the colour changes associated with sunrise and sunset to be controlled on long haul journeys, helping passengers to adjust to time zone differences."
While the CPI refers to these flexible screens as "high definition," a closer examination of the stats reveals they're aiming for a 150 dpi resolution. They reckon that within five years they'll be able to produce these screens in 50-centimeter-wide rolls, rather like wallpaper; they claim the manufacturing techniques "are currently in development at CPI [and] these screens could be produced at a cost that is unlikely to be any more than current displays."