All about head-up displays

A head-up display (HUD) can do more than many people think.

We explain the advantages, show possible applications, and innovative head-up displays that go far beyond their use in cars.

Difference between Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

Head-up displays – or HUDs for short – are not a completely new invention. Nevertheless, they are currently very popular and likely to become even more so in the near future – reason enough to summarize the most important facts on this topic and provide anyone interested in them with a little orientation.

Was ist ein Head-Up-Display?
A short definition

A head-up display is meant literally and is an innovative system for displaying information.  The technology projects the information directly into the user’s field of vision and also takes into account key parameters such as the user’s viewing direction and head position. HUDs thus have numerous advantages over conventional display technologies such as traditional screens.

How does a head-up display work?

There are a number of differences between the way HUDs work, depending on the technology used. However, as a rule they consist of two components, namely an image-generating optical unit on the one hand and a projection surface, e.g. the windshield of the car, on the other.  The task of the image-generating unit is to produce the respective information and transmit it visually as an image, video, or 3D animation onto the relevant projection surface.

As the surface needs to be both transparent and reflective, due to the nature of the process, glasslike elements or foils are mainly used as materials. Users then see the information produced by the image-generating unit – or more precisely, the mirrored information – seemingly hovering in space within their field of vision.

Which sizes do head-up displays come in?

HUDs are meanwhile available in a broad variety of sizes. However, the displays are often only relatively small, usually no bigger than 5 to 10 inches. These are the models mostly used in motor vehicles or aircraft. Displays need to be relatively small for these applications so that users can see all the information at a glance.

In the meantime, however, significantly larger versions have been designed for other purposes. Here, currently in top position is what is probably the largest head-up display at over 80 inches in size, the so-called augmented reality head-up display known as “Deep Frame, which is used, for example, for museums, exhibitions, congresses, and trade shows.

Advantages of different head-up displays


virtual reality

Head-up display (HUD) for cars and aircraft

  • Mostly very small between 5 and 10 inches


  • 2D and 3D animations can be displayed via virtual information, mostly in full HD, but partly also in lower quality

  • Less detailed information. Virtual information is usually limited to speed, warnings, and traffic information.

  • The user sees additional information about the real environment (the street, the sky) displayed

  • The information can be seen WITHOUT AR or VR glasses

augmented reality

Head-up displays (HUDs) for museums, showrooms, and exhibitions

  • Very large models up to 80 inches in size areavailable

  • Using high-definition 3D animation the virtual information can be displayed in 4K UHD quality

  • The possibilities are practically unlimited. Dinosaurs can run through the room, vehicles can be configured virtually at the car dealership, technical products can be more easily explained at trade shows.

  • The user receives additional information displayed in the real world, e.g. in museums, at exhibition stands, or car dealerships

  • The information can be seen WITHOUT AR or VR glasses

What are currently the greatest innovations and major trends in the field of head-up displays?

HUD has long been used not only in vehicles and aircraft. Thanks to technological advances in manufacturing and cost-efficient production, HUD technology is now being deployed in an increasing number of applications. It’s no wonder, then, that innovative head-up displays are already in use in a great many areas.

Augmented reality head-up display:
Deep Frame

Head-up display HUD for museum fairs events

Head-up displays (HUDs), also known as augmented reality displays, for museums, trade shows, and events

When it comes to innovative head-up displays, Deep Frame is a must. Deep Frame is a special form of head-up display, which is also known as an augmented reality display.

If you look through what is currently the largest HUD on the market, you will see a holographic 3D world that offers fantastic possibilities, but at the same time seems to merge with reality.

A specially developed lens technology makes it possible to influence the size of the projection, enabling fascinating visual observations – such as mice that are bigger than elephants, a beer bottle that rises just as high as the Eiffel Tower, or astronauts who seem to float freely in space.

Thanks to the technology of the augmented reality display, users of Deep Frame can experience holographic 3D worlds WITHOUT augmented reality glasses or virtual reality glasses.

Head-up displays as eye-catchers at trade shows

Deep Frame planetarium exhibition space

Deep Frame augmented reality display in a planetarium, showing an exhibition about the universe

Visitors usually have plenty to see at trade shows. Here it is frequently difficult for individual exhibitors to draw attention to their company and its products.

Therefore, head-up displays make excellent eye-catchers at trade shows. For example, they make it possible to visualize one’s own products and technical processes. If these then appear to float freely above the heads of the visitors, their eyes are automatically directed upwards.

Head-up displays bring museums to life

Deep Frame museum exhibition dinosaur T-Rex

Looking through an augmented reality head-up display at a museum or exhibition, dinosaurs such as the T-Rex come to life and appear to be moving freely within the room.

Many museums have a problem. A lot of people shy away from visiting museums because things and contexts are often presented in a far too dry and boring way.

That’s why head-up displays are the ideal solution for museums, because of their ability to bring things and events to life.

In this context there are almost limitless possibilities: Colossal dinosaurs stomping through the corridors of a prehistoric museum. Aircraft hovering through the halls of an aviation museum. Historical events where the visitor is right in the middle of it all.

Head-up displays are a real stroke of luck for museums because they transform exhibitions into genuine first-hand experiences.

Head-up displays are a great improvement for sales showrooms and flagship stores

augmented reality display Car shopping mall

Sales areas in the best locations are becoming increasingly expensive worldwide.

It is therefore hardly surprising that the trend is going towards smaller stores and retail spaces. However, there is often too little space to present the entire product range to customers.

Head-up displays are not only a good solution, they also provide both retailers and customers with important added value.

For example, a car dealer no longer needs to have all the vehicle models on stock in the showroom. Thanks to HUD, prospective customers can not only comfortably view them virtually, they can even configure them according to their own requirements and thus get a good idea of their dream car.

Head-up displays can turn events into something very special

Deep Frame City at night panorama

Deep Frame panorama of a city at night

Every year there are so many events, but only a few of them ever really remain in their visitors’ memory.

Fortunately, however, an event can be transformed into a very special experience through the use of HUD, which the people attending will talk about for a long time to come.

A little look back into the past.

Where were the first head-up displays used?

Head-up displays in the plane

Head-up displays in an aircraft above the clouds

The first rudimentary HUDs date back to the 40s of the last century and were fitted in aircraft. Today, however, they are the most important form of display for both military and civil aircraft, informing pilots of radar contacts and aeronautical data.

A few decades later, engineers are using HUD technology in certain vehicles to inform drivers about their current driving speed without them having to look away from the road.

Which aircraft and car manufacturers use head-up displays?

It is hard to imagine today’s aircraft without these displays. Therefore, as market leaders in the field of civil aviation, both Airbus – for example in the Airbus A380 – and Boeing in the Boeing 777 – rely on this technology.

In the automotive industry, General Motors installed the first simple HUDs in the United States as early as the 1980s. In Japan, Nissan was among the pioneers of this technology with the HUD built into its Nissan 240SX sports car. Together with Siemens VDO Automotive, BMW was the first European manufacturer to follow this trend. Starting in 2003, BMW mass-produced both the 5 Series and the 6 Series with HUD technology.

Whether Citroën, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota or VW, there is hardly an innovative car manufacturer that does not currently offer a version with head-up display technology, at least for selected vehicle models.


There are countless possibilities that go well beyond the conventional use of head-up displays in vehicles and aircraft.

Innovative systems are setting completely new standards – fascinating users and visitors alike. AND most importantly, HUD must be experienced live in order to get an idea of its depth. Photos and videos can only provide an initial impression.

Are you interested in deploying head-up displays at trade shows, events, or museums as an effective eye-catcher?

Then you are sure to find something suitable right here. We will also be happy to answer any questions you may have and give you comprehensive advice so that you can make optimum use of the outstanding potential of this technology.

Matthias Mangold

Head of Innovation

Tel: +49 6132 899 04 210