LAYERd is a “2.5D” multi-layer display constructed from commodity LCD monitors. It allows for glasses-free 3D, as well as a novel way to envision user interfaces.

Every LCD screen on the planet is made of two main parts: a transparent assembly (made of laminated glass, liquid crystal, and polarizing filters) and a backlight. Without the backlight, an LCD monitor is actually completely transparent wherever a white pixel is drawn. LAYERd uses three of these LCD assemblies illuminated by a single backlight to create a screen with real depth: objects drawn on the front display are physically in front of objects drawn on the rear ones. This research is mainly focused on the potential UI uses for such a display: what can one do with discrete physical layers in space?


LAYERd was supported by a microgrant from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier (FRFAF)— an endowment founded to encourage the creation of innovative artworks by the faculty, students and staff of Carnegie Mellon University. With this fund, the STUDIO seeks to develop a cache of groundbreaking projects created at CMU — works that can be described as “thinking at the edges” of the intersection of disciplines.

John Mars is a first-year graduate student in the Masters of Tangible Interaction Design program in the CMU School of Architecture. LAYERd was developed through the MTID course, “Making Things Interactive”. More information about this project can be found at John’s website, and in his research blog at