Most elevators are fitted with windowless cabs that shoot up and down structures’ dark interior shafts, offering their users nil views to the outside. A U.K.-based start-up led by an executive at Russian elevator manufacturer Stein is trying to open up the space with real-time technology that creates a virtual window inside the cab. Its goal: To give architects a tool to keep a building’s occupants oriented as they traverse its interior.
The result could add a twist to tall-building workers’ and residents’ vertical commutes.
Accessing a building’s elevator often requires its occupants to navigate through a planned space to the structure’s interior, where the aesthetic is interrupted by a short ride in a dimly lit cab. “When you’re traveling inside the lift cabin, you’re totally lost in understanding where you are,” says Dmitry Gorilovsky, chief innovation officer of LiftEye, the U.K.-based company set up to commercialize the technology.
LiftEye uses cameras positioned on the building’s exterior or through a peripheral window to capture and transmit 3D renderings and images of the building’s surroundings. The images are then mapped onto the renderings. The cameras are synced with each elevator cab’s position in the shafts in order to transmit the completed visuals in the right sequence and from the proper height—i.e., as the elevator rises, so does the projected landscape.
Gorilovsky, whose father, Aleksey, is CEO of both Stein and LiftEye, says that LiftEye can be used in most elevator cabs, based on how much additional weight it can accommodate. An average-size glass panel that displays the image measures 50 inches wide, taking up about half the wall of a standard elevator cab, and weighs approximately 44 kilograms, he says.
The cameras technically don’t have to be positioned on the same building as the elevators that broadcast their renderings, Gorilovsky says. That could eventually open the technology up to use by themed resorts and hotels could transmit views of their thematic locations. Other applications include adding touch-screen capabilities to allow the panel to function as an interactive map of the building or of local attractions, he says.
Afraid of heights? Gorilovsky insists that the panel installation should allay many people’s unease. “It’s not like you’re standing on an open balcony,” he says. “You’re still inside a building.”
The team offered demos of LiftEye at the Interlift tradeshow in Augsburg, Germany, in October 2013.
This post has been updated to reflect that an average LiftEye panel weighs 44 kg.