Augmented reality glasses look a step ahead of Google


I’m sitting in a bar watching a video of a baseball player. That’s unusual enough in the UK, where the sport has minimal following, but I’m not watching on a wall-mounted flatscreen or even my smartphone. The slugger’s swing plays out on a piece of glass just 2 millimeters thick, part of a prototype augmented reality (AR) glasses system created by display technology firm Vuzix.

“We basically make monitors – really hard-to-build monitors,” says Vuzix’s Clark Dever. The prototype is currently just a single lens jury-rigged to a tiny portable projector, but the results are already impressive. The video image takes up around a quarter of the entire lens and appears to hover around 10 centimeters in front of your face, so it is easy to see your surroundings at the same time. The prototype image is quite bright, though, making the real world look dark in comparison.

Images are displayed on the lens using optical waveguide technology. Light from the projector enters the side of the lens and is split into vertical and horizontal components that pass through tiny optical channels in the glass before being reconstructed in the opposite corner.

These channels are just about visible in the working prototype, but Dever also shows me a newer lens with finer channels, which looks like pure glass. The waveguide technology places a lower limit on the size of the lens, though, meaning the first generation of AR glasses will resemble large 1980s-style shades.

Vuzix’s background is in military hardware: previous versions of its glasses (without the waveguide technology) are already used by the US army. The special-forces unit that killed Osama bin Laden used a single-eye non-transparent lens to watch drone surveillance footage in real time on the ground. In the next six months the company plans to release a single-eye version of its new transparent lens for military and industrial applications, with full consumer glasses to follow next year.

In doing so, the company hopes to beat Google to the punch, as the capabilities of the search giant’s own AR glasses seem to have diminished since they were first announced in April. It remains to be seen just what you will be able to do with Vuzix’s glasses, though – Dever readily admits that it is a hardware, not a software company, but it is currently working with developers to create apps for the glasses.

Blowfish12@2012 Author: Sudharsun. P. R.

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