Will the Laptops of the Future Be a Pair of Eye Glasses?

By Boonsri Dickinson | June 11, 2009 10:33 am

eye-glasses.jpgThese days, some of us would rather experience the world through an augmented reality (AR)—one that is portable and hands-free, with devices that can enhance our perception of the world by changing the way we consume computer-generated information.

If you watch football, you’ve likely seen AR technology used to draw an onscreen yellow line indicating a first down. And if you’ve been reading our Science Not Fiction blog, then you probably already know we humans are obsessed with the idea of becoming superhumans, stretching our imagination as far as we can.

But most of what we see on TV has been inspired by what is really happening in labs around the world. The latest buzz is coming out of Germany, where researchers claim they’ve created glasses that can not only display data in front of your eyes, but also respond to questions presented by your eye movements.

Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems in Dresden have created head-mounted display eyeglasses that use eye movements to control what is shown onscreen. The prototype contains a chip that can take data from an external PDA and project the information directly into the person’s retina, creating the illusion that the image is one meter away, when in fact it’s literally right in front of you. When the wearer focuses on part of the image, his/her eye movements alone can control what is seen next. Eye movements can change menus, switch pictures, or even look up additional text information (basically anything you’d want to do on your computer). The glasses also contain organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which are used to clarify the object being viewed.

While the possibilities seem endless—it can be used by surgeons, construction workers, mechanics, and basically anyone who needs their hands free during a task—the reality is still a ways away. People who have tested the HMDs available today complain they are “too expensive, too heavy, too bulky, and not very ergonomic.”

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Image: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • http://www.swmm2000.com red

    Cool, I could really work with this computer when running simulation models.

  • Chris

    since i have to wear glasses anyway this would be pretty cool.

  • Gray Gaffer

    This has been a dream since 2001 (the movie). As a wearer of eyeglasses, like Chris, I see a couple of problems that are still to be addressed:

    1: optical path. The image must not be focused or formed on the surface of the lens. The image should be formed on the retina with the eye relaxed, i.e. normally focused on infinity. This one may be getting closer, for people with 20/20 vision or better (seen the large HD projectors that can work from the floor right beside the wall?). But my relaxed focal distance is a little more complicated than that, and I certainly cannot focus down comfortably to 1 meter. In fact, I think anybody would have issues maintaining such a focus, and it would certainly interfere with seeing through the glasses to the real world at the same time.

    2: Optical corrections. I have asymmetrical eye imperfections. One eye is long sighted, the other is short sighted. Both have 1 1/2 dioptres of astigmatism at about 60 degrees of axial tilt, but not the same orientation in both eyes. The projection system has to be able to work reflecting from the back of my prescription. Which implies conformable lenses in the projector. I think we have these for perfect optics, but not yet for corrective optics; also the corrective part has to be able to ‘uncorrect’ for the characteristics of the back of the eyeglass lens.

    We will be there when I can use them without eye-strain. In my case, AFAIK, contacts are not an option, so I cannot simulate perfect eyeballs. Correcting for eyesight issues in instruments is a thorny issue. I am an amateur astronomer, and astigmatism is a real handicap. I tried once to make a filter using a previous prescription lens cut down to a circle to fit the 1 1/4″ filter holder, but it does not work when on the inside of the eyepiece; it needs to go between the eyepiece and my eyeball, and I did not find as satisfactory mounting solution for that configuration. Plus I am not functional when not looking through a telescope eyeiece without my glasses.

    There are several head-mount displays trying to do the work, but they all suffer from these people problems. And AR also is going to need to overlay CGI into your actual field of view such that it lines up with real reality. I’m beginning to think Borg eyeballs may be the only way, and I certainly am not willing to give up an eyeball for the cause.

  • QUASAR

    Now, that’s a very progressive vision of the future!

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  • http://www.turktakimi.com Koxp

    Now, that’s a very progressive vision of the future!

  • bob the builder

    that is off the cizane

  • Pieter Kok

    Chris, you bring up good points. Having fairly bad astigmatism myself I understand you predicament. Several of my older family members (dad, aunt and uncle) have opted for laser surgery. The treatment was for glaucoma, but it also fixed their short-sightedness. I’m sure they can fix astigmatism as well.

    As for the screen, I think the focus should be variable, and independent for the two lenses. That way every user can optimize their own viewing experience.

  • http://www.eye-strain.org Eye Strain

    This sounds awesome! I can’t wait for the future…

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