A year following its innovative rollable laptop, Lenovo returns to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, unveiling yet another futuristic concept device: the ThinkBook Transparent Display Laptop. This 17.3-inch notebook features a screen that users can peer straight through.

Lenovo’s ThinkBook Transparent Display Laptop with a hand visible behind the display.

The main attraction is its bezel-less 17.3-inch MicroLED display, which achieves up to 55 percent transparency when its pixels are set to black and turned off. However, as the pixels illuminate, the transparency decreases gradually, resulting in a completely opaque white surface with a peak brightness of 1,000 nits.

While the allure of transparent screens in sci-fi movies and TV series is evident (opaque screens are dull, whereas actors' expressions are captivating), their practical applications in real-life scenarios are more challenging to define. How frequently, for instance, do individuals desire to view the vacant desk space behind their laptop? Would it be advantageous to observe a colleague sitting across from you, or would it prove distracting?

Drawing on the lower half of the transparent display concept.

Lenovo envisions the transparent laptop's potential usefulness for digital artists, enabling them to visualize the world behind the screen while sketching on the lower half where the keyboard resides. Tom Butler, Lenovo's executive director of the ThinkPad portfolio and product, admits in an interview, "I am not a good artist," but suggests the concept's ability to trace objects placed behind the screen. He illustrates the scenario by pulling a bunch of sunflowers behind the laptop, yet emphasizes its broader application, such as architects sketching buildings on-site without losing sight of their surroundings. Butler even describes the transparent laptop display as a form of augmented reality.

Transparent laptop with sunflowers visible behind it.

In 2024, Lenovo's demonstration included an AI component. They equipped the laptop's chassis with a small rear camera for object recognition of items placed behind it. The results could then be displayed on the screen while still transparent. For instance, placing sunflowers behind the laptop would prompt it to identify them accordingly. Displaying additional information could generate visual effects like a butterfly flying around the flowers. Similarly, placing a small coral model would trigger the appearance of a fish. However, it was primarily proof-of-concept material at this stage.

Similar to its rollable laptop from the previous year, Lenovo isn't suggesting that it has immediate plans to launch the ThinkBook Transparent Display Laptop as a consumer product. However, Butler expresses "very high confidence" that its technologies will find their way into an actual laptop within the next five years. By unveiling this proof of concept, Lenovo aims to initiate a public dialogue about its potential uses, setting a goal for the company to strive toward.