by Johanna Mischke

March 5, 2012

Extend your vision, augment your reality

Numerous research institutes and R&D departments are looking into alternative concepts to conventional portable communication devices. Wearable products that fall into this category include eyeglasses and head-mounted displays.

A wide range of products designed for personal entertainment applications are already on the market. Novero, for example, offers this type of system, as well as companies like Sony  and Carl Zeiss to name but a few.

Head-up displays are becoming increasingly popular for sports applications, such as the ski goggles from Recon Instruments  and the 4iiii system designed for athletes. Compared to the entertainment glasses mentioned above, these systems allow the wearer to see the world around them whilst displaying data in the field of vision.

Other devices that insert computer-generated images into the “real world” of the wearer have been devised by visionary companies such as Vuzix, Lumus, Kopin and Epson. Their products provide fade-ins of restaurant reviews, a measuring block for measuring shorter distances and compass and elevation displays.

The new display variant in the form of glasses becomes even more powerful when coupled with GPS data, accelerometers and a camera. What’s more, rumour has it that Apple and Google are currently looking into developing augmented reality glasses for the mass market. New display concepts mean a radical change in the way we interact with our portable devices today. Given that more and more of the big names are heading in the same direction, we are curious to find out what    our communication device/information hub will look like in the not too distant future.

However, the glasses concept has received some critical reviews. For example according to the Institute for Pervasive Computing at the University of Linz glasses with all the afore-mentioned features but the project was put on ice. The main issues were the development costs combined with the form factor and weight of the device. Moreover, many of today’s devices do not have wireless connection and are not that comfortable to wear. On the other hand, the recent rise in the popularity of flamboyant horn-rimmed spectacles might help overcome the rather obtrusive appearance of these devices.

We are excited to find out what the future has in store. Meanwhile, we will stick to our smartphones and maybe to external displays worn on a wristband.