Imagine sitting in a crowded coach class seat during a long flight with confidential work to do — with a competitor in the adjacent seat. No problem. Unfold the keyboard, put on the compact, high-resolution personal wearable display and begin working. Need a break? Immerse in some 3D stereoscopic Tomb Raider with 3D sound. Finished with the work? Pop in a DVD movie and enjoy the best seat in the cinema. Time to eat? Being able to see around the virtual display makes you fully aware of the hurried flight attendant handing you a hot cup of coffee.
Hewlett-Packard Labs microdisplay technology is already being designed into new products that will provide high-quality images for viewfinders, digital cameras and other consumer-electronics products. Now, scientists are "folding" light rays to fit them into even smaller spaces, an innovation that will be translated into high-resolution displays for cellular telephones, other mobile communicating devices, multimedia projectors, and a host of innovative new appliances and wearable contraptions.
Hewlett-Packard has built a prototype pair of personal eyeglass displays using reflective liquid crystal on silicon microdisplay technology and bright red, green, and blue HP LEDs. More like standard eyeglasses than clunky head-mount displays, they provide large, bright, crisp virtual images. Giving the user the perception that they are viewing a full-size conventional screen, eyeglass displays could change the size and shape of personal computers to the extent they completely disappear from the desktop when not in use. They might one day connect into the information utility from cell phones, airplane seats, or car dashboards. The same glasses could serve as a video-prompter for tuning a car, giving a speech, checking current events on the Internet or doing email.
The eyeglass displays are disruptive technology that will change the way people work, play, learn, communicate, travel and live. They are an enabling technology for next-generation information and entertainment appliances, and are also a replacement technology for a large range of liquid crystal displays (LCD) and cathode ray tube (CRT) applications. The HP Labs prototype eyeglass display has been refined into a compact, lightweight design, offering excellent optics with a broader range of colors than is available in typical LCDs or even CRTs. Whether used for viewing a document in high resolution or a DVD movie, the glasses let the wearer become totally engaged. Although the display offers complete privacy, it also affords peripheral visibility to provide an awareness of one's environment.
Building eyeglass displays requires a multi-disciplinary team, with experience in electronics, optics, integrated chip design, mechanical design, human factors, materials, packaging, and business development. HP Labs has assembled just such a team. Working with strategic partners, the team has set rigorous objectives that include uncompromising usability, awareness of surroundings, and new benefits such as portability, privacy, power, low weight and cost, high performance, stereoscopic imagery, improved color, ambient light tolerance, and use in any head position.
Mobile devices, medicine, the office, industry, classrooms, government/military, home and entertainment. The eyeglass display project at HP Labs can already lay claim to major accomplishments. There have been four generations of eyeglasses, with improvements in size, form factor, weight and image quality with each generation. As good as the technology is now, it is rich in opportunities for advancements.
Hewlett-Packard's Microdisplay Products Operation is working with HP Labs to put eyeglass displays into consumer's hands. With more and more bits being created, stored, transferred, and consumed; industry will be thinking about how these bits will be used. Many of them will be viewed, and HP's eyeglass technology may well be the device that transports the future of displays into the present.
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