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A Computer Display in Ordinary Sunglasses? 182

DonaldP asks: "I've been making head-mounted displays for wearable computers for a couple or three years now; I think my latest and greatest 3rd Generation display is a big step ahead! It fits inside a normal-looking pair of sunglasses. Why would I do something like this? As far as I know, this is one of the only ones available out there - the only others that come close are made by MicroOptical Corporation, but it's been years and you STILL can't actually BUY any of their products. With large companies like Xybernaut holding plenty of patents on wearable computers and going strong, is there a place for my little one-man company? Any tips for making it on my own? Or is my best hope to hook up with a giant?" I've been waiting for a nice and portable HMD for years, and this has the advantage of not making you look like a Borg reject (although some of you might like that look). HMDs still have a way to go to be practical for everyday use (many still require perfect vision or contacts because they are clumsy with glasses) but I'm sure these drawbacks will be fixed with time.
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A Computer Display in Ordinary Sunglasses?

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  • Start small... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ryanwright ( 450832 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @07:36PM (#2394233)
    Start small. Make a few of 'em by hand, make sure they all work, and sell them on EBay. Create a nice business oriented web site and link to it in your EBay listings. Research traditional marketing priciples and apply them. A catchy domain name helps, too.

    This is something you could start now for very little $$. Trying to find someone to manufacture these things en masse would be a pain in the ass and likely require a huge investment. I say, make them all by hand for a couple of years until you are so flooded with orders that you just can't keep up. Then take it to the next step.
    • Re:Start small... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dstone ( 191334 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @08:36PM (#2394375) Homepage
      I say, make them all by hand for a couple of years until you are so flooded with orders that you just can't keep up. Then take it to the next step.

      That's good advice, unless you find it turns to a nightmare of technical support, repairs, warranty, and eyesight-loss/seizure-related lawsuits that become too much to handle yourself. Then you'll have take it to the next level. ;-) Okay, maybe that's a bit cynical. It sounds like you're onto something good with your device, so I guess what I'm saying is don't let a good idea starve or die because you didn't pay attention to boring/annoying (but important) details that you could have farmed out to someone else (even if that means spending money, giving away equity, revenue sharing, whatever).
      • Re:Start small... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by shrewtamer ( 521554 )
        Sounds like you have the start of a working model. The point about eyesight problems is an important one. I used to work (as a softie) making scanners. The optics guys there had been demonstrated simmilar devices. These had been carefully measured to proove that the image was focused on your retina when your eye was relaxed. Properly set up it sounds like these devices will be a lot better for your eyes. Improperly set up and I expect you'll be screwed. Could the device detect if it had become inappropriately calibrated? What happens if I sit on it at the beech, drop it in my beer, then put them on backwards (I know its called evolution, but imagine a reasonable accident!)
        I doubt that you could market this on your own. I'd expect you'd need some technical help, you do all the mechanics, optics and software by yourself! wow! but are all these areas up to the required standard for sale? Maybe you could find some partners or contract some good people. Sorry to have to use a dirty word but you will need some "marketing" to! Can't believe you'd want to spend the time necessary doing this.
        Are there independant testing labs for the safety of optical devices? (I think there are but have no details.) If this was established and I could see your device working, send me the bill.

    • You should also try and figure out a way to get your page posted someplace where it'll be seen by about a quarter-million geeks who've been dreaming of something like this for at least ten years.

      Seriously, at $1500 a pop, limited to 320x240 greyscale, and with a 2-month waiting list [] (and that was presumably before today), I'd guess that you're not quite at the point where every single one of us will buy one, but even so, you probably did just secure at least a few orders. (It'd be interesting if you'd post back in a few days with the results.) The sweet spot would probably be if you could hit 640x480 and at least 8-bit color without going too far over $600.

      Still, this is already pretty nice -- I'd call myself "tempted", but not quite "seriously tempted", as it is; definitely interested enough to keep an eye on your progress. The price point is probably more important than the features: I'd be more likely to buy it as it is if you got the price down than at the current price if you got the features up.

      Good luck.

  • In 1987, I saw an Apple video (taking place in the future, intended to be a nostalgic review of Apple's past) where Woz wore a paper of MacGlasses, complete with tiny disks that inserted into the side of the frame (shades of the MMC/SD crads) - pretty cool, too bad it didn't happen. (The video also had a newsacst where IBM announced their latest main frames were compatible with teh Apple 3000 series mainframe.
  • When i think of wearables, I usually think of high tech VR interfaces to new, unheard of apps... But it's nice to see PINE running on these glasses!!!

  • consult (Score:2, Funny)

    by Beckman ( 136138 )
    If you send me a pair and pay my fee, I'll give you a consultation.


    • Here's a free consultation

      1. Make sure all the words on your page are spelled correctly. (re-intruduction )

      2. Don't seek investors until you have completed Step 1.

      Seriously, it's an impressive product. Promote it professionally.

  • Input (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KernelHappy ( 517524 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @07:40PM (#2394243) Homepage
    As cool as these kinds of displays are, how do you input data? I mean voice recognition is nice, but there is the problem of privacy, annoying other people and if I recall most people don't think as effectively while speaking outloud (heh kind of obvious).

    Solve the man/machine interface and you won't need to make the displays.
    • How about rings (on each finger) that can detect vertical and horizontal movement... which would then be used to function as a keyboard (with whatever "keymap" you like). Different existing keymaps can be used, like QWERTY and Dvorak, or entirely new ones can be made (with the possibilities that a "virtual keyboard" presents...)
      • How about rings (on each finger) that can detect vertical and horizontal movement.

        hehe. So what command would flipping the birdie be? :-)

      • Re:Input (Score:4, Insightful)

        by talonyx ( 125221 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @11:23PM (#2394629)
        If one integrated:

        3D acceleration
        Head tracking
        Finger motion tracking
        and a sufficiently powerfull processor, it would be possible to make basically a floating keyboard out in front of you, visible stereoscopically through the glasses as being in a comfortable ergonomic position.
        You could then type on this nonexistent keyboard! With headphones, it would even be possible to have audible feedback in your ears every time you hit a key.

        I think it would be cool to walk around with regular sunglasses on and see time/date and other information popups appear around the edges of my vision, focussed to infinity.

        I guess I'll have to wait for brain implanted chips and retinal projectors, though :D

    • You could use one of these [], I think. It's "A combination keyboard and mouse that weighs 4 ounces and fits in the palm of your hand."

      • Re:Twiddler2 (Score:2, Informative)

        by dav ( 5309 )
        I've been looking at these for awhile now, and decided after following that link to purchase one.

        But I got a bit nervous when I checked the security certificate information for their SSL connection like I always do, and noticed it was some other webiste I'd never heard of.

        Well that could just be their purchasing service, but just to be safe I decided to call their listed phone number (631) 474-4405 and that turned out to be no longer valid. I didn't call the new number given yet; I know I'm paranoid, and frankly I like it that way, but does anyone know if this is the legit link?
        • Re:Twiddler2 (Score:2, Informative)

          by Aldreis ( 262637 )
          does anyone know if this is the legit link?

          Try this []. Apparently they're moving right now.

        • I bought a Twiddler a couple years ago, and a Twiddler2 a few months ago. Chris George, the guy who basically IS Handykey, is on the up-and-up, and even went to a fair amount of trouble to support me...I dropped my Twiddler, and the cable started to get spotty. He took it back, and sent me a new one with no trouble.

          Dave Storrs

    • The "traditional" wearable computer input device seems to be the Twiddler [] - a one-handed chording keyboard. That's what the MIT Wearables [] crew all seem to use.

      Unfortunately the way they do augmented memory is by typing in the things they see to see if there are notes against them already - the newer things use GPS and spatial detectors to try and avoid that for static objects, and IR-beacons to avoid it for moving (but known) things.
  • I wonder if the US goverenment would have a need for sungalsses with small displays in them.

    If not them, then at least Holywood ;)
    • Of course they would have a use for them, being able to browse porn sites more discreetly for one thing.
    • ..they just take silly-looking sunglasses from (insert leading vendor here) and pretend there's a screen on the inside. (Think M:I-2.)

      That said, the goal here does seem to be glasses where it's impossible to detect the display technology, even with untinted lenses. I can't wait to see a fourth- or fifth-generation display from this guy mass-marketed for a reasonable price. (I'd pay the price of a high-quality 19" CRT, but not much more.)
  • by H3XOR ( 525026 )
    You should try and contact Steven Mann. I think he was a one many army and pioneered some of the first wearable computer components.
  • oh no.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Prion86 ( 463800 )
    and we thought it was bad when all we had to deal with was bad drivers and cell phones...
    • Yes, I can see it now:

      SCENE: the courtroom. A large lady is waving her arms madly. A skinny guy with glasses and unkempt hair is trying not to look scared of her.

      LADY: You wrecked my car and killed my 3-year-old! (points to Exhibit A)

      GEEK: Really, ma'am, I was just trying to check my email during the traffic jam... I got these cool new sunglasses and they run Pine...

      GEEK sighs, realizing the situation is hopeless...

  • Didn't IBM have a commercial with this guy in a park ordering stocks with something like that? It could just be a concept/prototype or total bs from them, but I liked it... Looked like one of those eye things the Dominion use.
    • IBM have had a wearable prototype for years - I think I first saw it back in 1998.
      The first version was a stripped out thinkpad 560, running at between 100-200Mhz (cant remember exactly - my memory is failing with advancing age), using an IBM microdrive for storage (and to reduce size.) I think it had a 320x240 monochrome screen.
      I remember they had souped this up to an 800x600 colour screen in a later version.

      The unit didnt have a keyboard - just a trackpoint mouse mounted on your finger to be operated by your thumb, and a kind of 'trigger' mouse button, along with a mic for voice commands.
      If I remember correctly, it was envisioned for engineer types to look up plans and diagrams whilst working on the machinery. eg. a jet engine technician could call up a schematic and have it superimposed on the actual parts of the engine as he was working on it.

      heres a link I dug up
      • Wow, thanks, I like it... Could take the display and stick it on a Crusoe or something smallish but good. I could see it as being extremely useful for what they intended and for other stuff (stuff we want it for), but if you want it to be two eyes then it might look like Geordi's visor. Though, they probably have no intention of putting these into production. Oh well.
  • by motherhead ( 344331 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @07:49PM (#2394269)

    "Why would I do with something like this?"

    Hmmm, I have private investigator friends (insurance fraud, they don't get to carry guns and drive Ferraris) that would love a pair of completely innocuous shades that would let them point say... a video camera in a suitcase one way while they are looking elseware.

    We actually had a discussion about this the other day, wondering if you could do it wireless and have the antenna and power pack/receiver disguised as a "sports loop".

    I would like this same rig because I am just plain a Bad Person ;}

    • ...wondering if you could do it wireless...

      Hey maybe there are some uses for x10 [] equipment after all! But hurry! This sale ends tomorrow even though it will be on sale again the next day!

      (Ducks to avoid a popup ad)
      • Even worse ... I e-mailed them to ask them what the diff was between several similar sounding products. I quickly got a response.

        And then I got 1 e-mail everyday from the damn marketting department. Too bad a good company is being dragged around my marketting on steroids.

        Though from what I hear about the quality of the X-10, you would probably get some serious eye-strain from the images produced...kinda like living in a world of stereograms!
    • by DonaldP ( 243501 ) <donp AT aeinnovations DOT com> on Saturday October 06, 2001 @02:52AM (#2394856) Homepage
      It can get cooler. With my first-generation display (with a black & white mini camera in it) I looped it back into the display. I amused myself by turning out the lights, and using a remote control as a flashlight to see in the dark.

      Nearly all monochrome mini cameras are IR-sensitive. It was cheap night-vision.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @08:35AM (#2395082) Homepage Journal
      How about this:

      A pair of display glasses kept next to the copy machine. When it jams in location D2, the user puts them on and an animation of how to remove the jam is superimposed on the actual mechanism. The same applies to any kind of mechanical task (think fixing an automobile, or the advanced chapters of the Kama Sutra).

      Or this:

      A firefigter eners a burning building; it's smoky and nothing can be seen. Radar maps the suroundings and shows a wireframe model on his heads up display. (Actually, I think they have things already which can see through smoke, but perhaps they could be made lighter). Or maybe containers of hazardous materials would have a transponder that would alert the firefighter to its presence, display a red dot at its location, and show its material safety data sheet on request.

      Or this:

      A headset that gives a surgeon a heads up view of her patient's vital signs, displays plans she has made for complex operations, and integrates with advance sensors to give her the equivalent of x-ray vision.

      Or this:

      A pair of glasses that would allow people identifying rare plants or insects to compare specimens to the taxonomic databases. They could even be integrated with a video microscope so the user doesn't have to bend of a stereo microscope all day.

      Personally, I'd like to get rid of computer monitors. They're an ergonomic disaster, and scaling them up in size creates all kinds of space and energy problems. But I could probably think of a hundred other applications for them in every day life. I believe computer enhanced reality has a huge potential.

      • A firefigter eners a burning building; it's smoky and nothing can be seen. Radar maps the suroundings and shows a wireframe model on his heads up display. (Actually, I think they have things already which can see through smoke, but perhaps they could be made lighter). Or maybe containers of hazardous materials would have a transponder that would alert the firefighter to its presence, display a red dot at its location, and show its material safety data sheet on request

        Yes, it is called a Thermal Imager []. I think the hardest part of this would not the technology, but the application. We see heat in excess of 1000 degrees F, which would quicky melt most any sunglasses.

        However, and this may be a thought to the originator. When we enter a hazardous condition (read: fire, HazMat), we are wearing our SCBAs. These include a mask that connects to our air tank. If there was a way that you could integrate the display onto those masks, with an on/off button, there would probably be a gigantic market for it.

  • by RelliK ( 4466 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @07:50PM (#2394272)
    Is there an optometrist on /. who can answer this question? (year right!) Staring at an object so close to your eyeballs can't be good. Wouldn't it strain your eyes a lot more than conventional monitor?
    • by Tekmage ( 17375 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @07:59PM (#2394305) Homepage
      The focal point is actually far in front of you. On my unmodified M1, I have to wear my glasses (I'm near-sighted) to read the display.
      • Vary your focus (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KegDude ( 96601 )
        (RelliK:) Staring at an object so close to your eyeballs can't be good. Wouldn't it strain your eyes a lot more than conventional monitor?

        (Tekmage:) The focal point is actually far in front of you..

        As a bonus with these displays, make the focus point of the text vary slowly over time, so your eyes aren't always set to a particular distance.

        Hey, it's a selling point too.. Exercise for your eyes, while you work!

        Seriously, it seems pretty obvious that it would be very beneficial for your eyes to not have to be set to the same focus all day, like it may be right now, if your work involves staring at your monitor all day long.

    • Once you get 3D working (dual lenses and all), you could make the display as if it was a 100 m tall display that was 50 m away, or however you would want it.
      • That wouldn't change the fact that you'd have to focus your eyes a whole lot closer...try putting your hand right in front of your face and focusing on it with just one eye. Hopefully these things contain some way to change the focal point.

        • That would be true, except that the lens changes the focal length of the display to appear "normal" - ie at the same depth as other things around you.

          You can see this effect for yourself with a magnifier lens of some kind. Preferably a jewele's loupe or some other small magnifying lens.

          Hold the lens up to one eye. Keep both eyes open. Hold a paper with writing up to the eye with the lens. Move the paper back and forth until it comes into focus. You'll see what I mean.

          It's just like looking into a video camera's eyepiece.
    • No. It's probably not.
      It's stressful on the eyes to focus on something too close.. that's all.
      This only appears in one eye.. you don't try to focus on it.. should be fine.
  • So, wearable output has an apparently decent solution. Now for input. Have you looked at doing something like this? [] Or perhaps offer a Twiddler [] with your other parts for sale?

    I like the Xybernaut's design, yet it's price is beyond my means (and I'm usually an early adopter of geek chic). If you could offer just a few more components for sale, or a construction service, that's competitive with the big guys, I think you could make a decent living. As a previous poster mentioned, Ebay works.

  • Oh, I don't know.

    Maybe to make money and not scare off the chicks when they notice that you've got a webcam on your shoes?

  • With the guy sitting outside with pigeons on the ground and he talks to himself with his sunglasses? I am not sure if the commercal was made by IBM.

  • And they only cost $1500 US and take 4-10 weeks. Not bad considering they aren't even mass-produced!
    Purchase a 3rd Generation HMD []
  • Just be carefull not to market your glasses as generation 3. I believe Apple has a G3 trademark, and would be more than happy to sue you.
  • Never Again (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    My experience wearing a computer was not very comfortable. That 19 inch ViewSonic was a real pain in the neck. The backpack frame holding the Dell Dimension dug into my shoulders. Also, I kept tripping over the keyboard and mouse cables while kicking along the Honda generator.

  • what if you sold a conversion kit for turning your own sunglasses into a HMD?
  • by hillct ( 230132 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @08:05PM (#2394313) Homepage Journal
    While the covert HMD is a really neat spiffy product, the bariers to entry into the hardware market are quite high. In order to compete you'll need to be able to finance production operations (the easy part) and incur substancial legal expenses to insure that none of the many wearable computing patents - mentioned as being held by large players in this market - apply to your hardware, and in the event that some can ce construed to apply, you'll need to handle licensing which will probably be at great expense as well. Furthermore, although the SSSCA will probably not add requirements to your hardware but given the current legislative enviroment, similar legislation that would apply, might appear at any moment. As we all know - the wearable computer maker has not reached mass aceptance yet so without sufficient customer base for the computing hardware, the market for the display hardware - normally some percentage of the market for the compute platform - will be extremely small, regardless of how cool the hardware is. For these reasons I'd recommend considering licensing your hardware to a larger player in the market. While you won't derive nearly as much revenue as if you marketed the product yourself, the revenue you collect will be predictable and will be recieved within a timeframe (and I'm making an assumption about Anubis Enterprises) acceptable for small businesses to maintain solvency.

  • Some questions... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ian_Bailey ( 469273 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @08:06PM (#2394315) Homepage Journal

    Although I think this technology is very cool, I think a key thing missing is the lack of a video camera. While he does mention that this drastically increases the size, it would make this technology MUCH more useful.

    There is some usefulness for these sorts of displays (heads-up current information like current stock quotes for example), without some new input device to control such a radically different gadget from what we are used to. Somehow I don't see people 10 years from now running pine off to the side!

    While perhaps some kind of hand-pad would be a good short-term compromise (What do people think should be hooked up to one of these, maybe a Handspring Expansion?), the most intuitive and relevant inputs would be voice and/or sight recognition.

    Imagine searching a crowd for a friend. You say aloud, "Where's Paul?" and this baby runs a face-pattern recognition algorithm to help you... Just a thought ;-)

    • "....I think a key thing missing is the lack of a video camera. While he does mention that this drastically increases the size, it would make this technology MUCH more useful. "

      Yes, imagine it. i could use the camera to project an image of what im looking at right in front of my own eye!!!
    • The classes were all ripped off from other games, so I hadn't noticed.

      Didn't /. just do an article on the in-effectiveness of curent face-recognition software? With current technology, there's no way a computer would be better at finding a friends face than you would be.

      Still, a very cool piece of equipment.

  • oh my god this guy is going to make a million dollars
  • Just thinking aloud, what does everyone think would be the best operating software to run on an interface like this?

    Personally, I think the coolest thing would be if the glasses implemented an immersive translucent 3D workstation sort of like the ones in the Final Fantasy movie. Then place little sensors on your fingernails as described here []. Some kind of radio sensor network (I know it's not a trivial thing to do) could detect when you pressed a certain virtual button, and run programs, display data, etc.

    I think playing with something like that would be sweet. The funny thing would be that all the people walking or sitting would be waving their hands around like they were conducting an orchestra. :-)

  • by KFury ( 19522 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @08:19PM (#2394341) Homepage
    It's all about publicity. The first thing you need to do is dupe^H^H^H^Hconvince Slashdot editors that your idea is cool, real, and one VC funding round away from changing the world as they know it.
  • Wearables ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zangdesign ( 462534 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @08:20PM (#2394343) Journal
    Three questions:

    I wear prescription glasses. Would this cause any problems?

    Is it possible to use this with a Windows-based computer? (Don't freak out - I have my reasons and they are valid ones)

    Can you drop the price a hair?

    Seriously, I can foresee a great number of uses for this. I would suggest you go for it, but hire a patent lawyer to do some research for you. There's probably a ton of prior art on this by other companies, but there might be some government research you can base off of.

    Anyway, good luck and all.
    • I wear glasses too, and I don't know the answer to your first question.

      As for your second question, the device appears to be the display only. So I believe that once it's working properly, you could plug any old monitor cable into it.

      As for your third question, I don't think the price is that bad! Especially when you compare it to some flat-screen monitors.

  • by nexex ( 256614 )
    Those are sweet, now all I need is a comp that will fit in your pocket - and run a decent amount of time between charges, and internet that will go anywhere that is affordable...
    • You mean something like this []?

      Okay, so it's not "pocket sized" according to the article, but I'm sure there are lots of possibilities out there. The fact that this one is so well equipped in the I/O department just caught my eye.
  • Perhaps something of this nature could be used to instruct a large group of people....i could see a refined version of this used by the government to inform agents in real time in certain operations....

    as far as where to go with something like this...if you really wanted to take the idea commercial, and you have a lower cash flow, you may want to consider "partnering" with a company that can either benefit from your product, or a company that can make your product better(or vice versa)....

  • by deenie ( 40390 )
    I think it's called "Retinitus Pigmentosa."
    A friend of a friend of mine is gradually losing his sight to it. Apparently he can still see just a limited area at the center of his former field of vision. But he still uses the comuter (and watched the WTC collapse).

    If the "eye strain" objection cited elsewhere isn't a factor, something like this might at least return a full view of the computer screen (and then, movies? live video feed?
    • Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited condition of the retina in which specific photoreceptor cells degenerate, thusly it becomes increasingly more difficult to see in dim light.

      It is not caused by "eye strain", but by a specific mutation in the rhodopsin gene.

      My cat hates you.
    • RP and many other diseases of the retina are very good reasons to keep an eye (no pun intended) on this and similar projects. Here are a few good resources for other types of low-vision coping technology:

      autofocus eyewear [] []
      the Jordy [] [] (yes, trek-inspired!)
      wire a camera to your brain [] []
      artificial retina [] []
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Friday October 05, 2001 @08:32PM (#2394367) Homepage Journal
    Something I have considered for quite awhile (Back in '94!) is how to get around in virtual worlds. The solution I came up with is by no means 'true VR', but instead aims to be natural. The idea is that you have a platform a couple inches thick by about 8 feet square. (The size could change depending on what is most comfortable for the majority of people.) The platform would then be divided up like this:


    |\ /|
    | \___/ |
    | | | |
    | |___| |
    | / \ |


    The user would normally stand on the center square. Each of the divisions ahead, behind, to the left, and to the right represents a direction that the user may wish to go. While in the virtual world, all the user has to do to move forward, is to take a single step forward onto the division in front of him. Similarly the division behind him would cause him to back up. The left and right would strafe.

    The left and right could potentially be a 'turn' as it is in most FPS, but I fealt that the turning should rather be handled by the HMD (say via a Boom Tracker) due to the fact that side stepping is a more natural result to taking a step left and moving your head is a more natural 'turn' motion.

    Anyway, that was my idea and since I don't have the time to build it, I'm sharing it with everyone here. A tip on building tho. It would probably be easiest to take a cheapo gamepad and strip it out for its interface. That way the electronics and software will be compatible with existing and future programs.

    If anyone builds one of these things, I'd love to hear about it. Shoot me a mail at:

    Just remove the NOSPAM.
    • Maybe you're looking for something like the NES Powerpad [] ?

      Or any of the dance-pads available for the PSX?
      • I never know that NES made a pad similar to the design I laid out. I'd always known about the 'twister' style pad, but all that had was a 'sprint race' game and an arobics game. Of course the NES hardware was always way ahead of its software with the Power Glove being the crowning example. (I still have the RS232 interface I built for that thing.)

        I've seen the dance pads in the arcades and I assume that those are similar to the PSX ones. The problem with the 'plunger' design is that you have to make sure you hit the target. When you are in a VR world, you would have trouble with such a design, whereas actual platforms would provide both a large target and feedback by dropping a little (either a 1/2 inch drop or a satifying click like on a mouse).
    • I've seen something like you described advertised on german TV. It was an add-on for Playstation games (and will probably be available for other consoles).

      It consisted basically of the platform you described (it came in form of a "mat" with sensors, so it could be easily rolled together for storage). It also had the different field for going standing still/going forward/backing up/left/right. Additional to that were two poles standing upright on the front part of the mat. These poles sported some IR sensors.

      The purpose of this thingamajig (retailing for about 200Marks, which comes down to $90) was adding reality to "beat-em-up" games like Mortal Combat. Using the map fields you could go forwards and backwards. The IR sensors on the poles would detect your fist/arm "punching". Also it could distinguish between arm and leg usage (probably by using a dedicated sensor circuit for each foot). Also high and low kicks could be done, and a slight jump (with you just leaving the floor for some inches) onto the fore/aft pads would trigger a jump in the game.

      I am sure this thing is available in the US as well.
    • Why not something that works like a 3d treadmill? indiviual platforms that can raise/lower/move (collectively when necessary) to match your movements.
      You could do stairs.... everything.
    • Not my idea, but I have never seen an implementation of it, so I wrote a how-to a long while back on building it:

      Cheap VR Issue 3 []

      Basically, it works like a joypad, only larger, where you "lean" in the direction you want to "go".

      BTW, don't bother emailing the address contained in the issue - it don't work anymore, instead, email to phoenixgarage addy...
  • This looks great for a nice wearable SSH2 session, but the bulk of my time (and that of the majority of people using computers, I'd think) is spent digging around the web or using tools of fairly high resolution demands in Win2k (3D Studio MAX, Photoshop, MSDEV, etc.).

    If you manage to get it to 1600x1200x32x85hz and retain the general physical characteristics of current models, I'll pay as much as/kill whomever you wish for one. Using an RSI 'cast' to gauntlet-mount a Half Keyboard on one hand and a 4D mouse on the other in combination with one of those tiny stripped down Celery 700 boxes, I'm pretty much set.

    • Re:Getting there (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Whitehawke ( 112798 )
      Ummm...would you like the moon with that too?

      Respectfully, this is WAY beyond what the state of the art can support right now, or in the foreseeable future.

      It's a chicken-and-egg problem...the masses won't be interested in wearables until they are more or less equivalent to desktops. But until the masses are interested, the major players won't devote major funding to getting wearables up to desktop level. Which means that only hobbyists and small businesses will do it. Which means that progress will be very slow.

      On the other hand, I think you may be overestimating what you really need. Instead of thinking "What do I need from a wearable in order to do the things that I do on my desktop?" try thinking "What can I do on my wearable that I can't do on my desktop?"

      Here are some suggestions:

      * have a combined MP3 player/watch/note taker/scheduler/data bank/voice-over-IP cell phone/email/pager, all in one go-anywhere device

      * have a personal electronic assistant that helps you remember things based on your current surroundings and other cues (check out the Remembrance Agents Page [] for more details)

      * broadcast video of what you're seeing back to your home basestation. If you get mugged, you have a video of the guy's face. If you see a beautiful sunset, you can watch it (admittedly on a small screen) with your sweetie later.

      * mapping software that updates in realtime, showing you where you are and providing you detailed instructions on how to get to your destination.

      * ...use your imagination

      Dave Storrs
      • yeah and what happens when the government starts realizing that they can record everything that you see, and hackers start to grab in and record what you're seeing too? Dunno if I like the implications of that, especially in wake of recent events.
  • Do you want the video camera put in the 4th gen so you can pick up eye signals to control the computer? Blink twice rapidly to close window...
  • A good market for this could be security. Combine a HMD with some form of wearable PDA or 'small' laptop (It doesn't need to be anything high tech, a secure strap/backpack), set it up with wireless networking and you could beam images from security cameras to the users sunglasses/goggles. A 'button', 'pad' or custom trackball style device could be used to navigate between cameras. This would be a niche market admittedly, but I'm sure various uses could be thought of for such a device.. Open for thoughts..
  • Complete wearable (Score:2, Interesting)

    by moebius_4d ( 26199 )
    The picture for wearable fans is getting steadily better. Consider an Ipaq with wireless package, pcmcia video card, IBM 1Gb Microdrive, a Twiddler2, and one of these HMDs. The specs to hook up a Twiddler2 are already out there. You run linux from here [] and you're all set.

    Well, maybe you might want another battery :)

    Sure it has a redundant screen. I used to hate that idea. But now I realize that it just means I can still use the machine in situations where the wearable is not appropriate (like the beach) or when I've already taken it off.

    Every year these little handhelds get more powerful and the peripheral market around them gets richer. I think this is the critical mass that will finally allow the normal (non-EE) person to put together usable and powerful wearables. The HMD is really the missing link.

    Just as an aside, I wrote the author about modifying my own M1 to his first-gen sunglasses hack some time ago, and he refused to do the job (for money, I mean) because he felt that his current design required too much "tuning" for each person's ergos. I guess he's licked that problem, and it's nice to know that some people really aren't just in it for the money. He's a good guy.
  • A few applications (Score:3, Insightful)

    by horza ( 87255 ) on Friday October 05, 2001 @10:11PM (#2394517) Homepage
    Yes the input device is problematic, but ignoring this and plugging it into a pack with hard drive think of the applications:
    • pop up map of the area when walking around trying to find the place you are supposed to be having a meeting. Using GPS the map scrolls and stays centered on you
    • watch videos whilst sitting on the Tube instead of just listening to MP3s
    • discretely pull up information on items during an auction preview so as not to show you are interested in bidding
    • get GREAT marks in those exams
    • sun, sea, sand, shades... and email! Heaven
    • bored with making love to the same woman? Superimpose Nicole Kidmans face
    • Who Wants to be a Millionaire*

    Ok, it's getting late. Will stop there.

    * gameshow, for those that don't know it.

    • Plug it (or wireless it - better) into your car's onboard computer and have head up speedo, tachometer, fuel, oil pressure, anything else you care about. But personally I'd find a head up speedo most useful.
      • Indeed, they are nice.. Controller's Bonneville SSEi has a HUD for radio, speed, signals, and a few other things.. Works great. I thought of putting a similar system in my own car, but mounting it on the dash so it doesn't look horrible, is the hard part.
  • How exactly does the display work? What would someone see looking at the glasses from in front of you? I have no knowledge in the whole beamsplitting, reflection thing so you'll have to excuse me :P but would it be possible someone could use a similar device directed toward the glasses that could "steal" or capture what's being displayed? or do the glasses have some sort of protective 'coating' (not sure on a good term) that would prevent this?
  • PDA Application? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MikeyNg ( 88437 )

    How about if you could figure a way to work this with a PDA? The resolution and lack of color would seem to work well with a Palm OS guy. You'd have to work on the interface a bit, but it'd be relatively cool to have your address book handy right where you could see it. You could scribble notes to yourself while walking down the street and what not. HMD+PDA+Expedia = easy navigation, or a quick car crash. (You get my point, though.) Combine your HMD with the black and white Clie's with the jog dial, and you may be able to sell some. Especially to those tech-crazy Japanese.

  • The main problem with a computer display in
    glasses is as discussed above eye strain.

    Imagine an standard but small LCD display in
    front of your eye. To focus on it, is the same
    as focusing on any object 2 cm away from you
    eye, downright impossible unless your extremely
    short sighted. This is easy to fix you put a
    lens in front of the LCD so that to correctly everything
    is focused at infinity or maybe 20 feet away,
    i.e. your
    eye has to focus as if the image was at infinity or 20 feet. But this is still is not good enough.

    The eye (and brain) is built to be continously
    focusing on different objects at different depths,
    and keeping it locked at in single focal depth for
    very long produces eye strain. Worse still is that
    if your viewing a 3d image, the parallex clues the brain gets to what distance an object is
    at, have nothing to with what depth the eye has
    to focus at, and this could cause further problems
    with eye strain, that you wouldn't normally get
    just by staring somewhere for a long period of time.

    True when you look around a room you don't tend to
    notice objects coming in and out of focus, but this is
    in fact because the Brain uses the eye
    to update the model of your surroundings and it
    is this model you normally perceive.

    Until someone can design a system that has
    different virtual objects at different focal depths, eye strain will painfully prevent such
    displays becoming popular consumer items.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Although there is no "sales" page on their site, this is normal for a product in prototype stage which costs several thousand dollars. If you send them an email, they will be happy to inform you that their glasses are available, and range in price from $1500 to $2500.
  • A year or two ago, Newsweek did a feature on eBooks.

    The chief lament was that they were more incovenient than real books.

    Elsewhere in the same issue, there was a story about computer displays embedded in (albeit oversized at the time) eyeglasses.

  • Already been done (Score:3, Interesting)

    by greggman ( 102198 ) on Saturday October 06, 2001 @03:50AM (#2394886) Homepage

    4 or 5 years ago a company called Virtual Vision had sunglass based consumer displays. They nearly went under when they found there was no market for them.

    They are still around [] and they do mostly vertical market stuff now and they've become a subsidiary of eMagin [] which makes super small LCD displys (like 1280x1024 in less than 1 inch)

    Since the sunglass thing they also make Borg like half sunglass attachements. The uses I've heard of are for example, a surgeon can wear one and have all your vital signs in his view (or just at a glance to the side of his forward view) at all times so instead of having to look up at all those machines hanging over the operating table he can concentrate on the surgery.

    Another I've heard of is supposedly it takes a truckload of manuals to cover maintainence on commerical airliners. Well, they made a belt worn wireless networked computer connected to one of their displays with voice input so instead of having to bring the truck over and search through the paper manuals while trying to fix something the mechanic could just call it up on the display he's wearing and glance at it while he works on the problem area.

    PS: My Father works for that company.

  • So, some punk ass kid gets one of these things for his birthday. Its got a camera, OCR software, and a computer algebra package. All of a sudden he starts pulling A's in his math classes without learning a thing...

    If these things get mass produced, and I hope they do, they will probably be treated by academia like the origonal pocket calculators. If you get caught with one, you get expelled. Watching this industry mature is going to be very interesting. Its just one step closer to the cyberpunk lifestyle in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. And damn, it is cool.
    • *if* they were entirely conspicuous then perhaps you would have a point, but they're not. And I think it will be a very long time until they will be. How many teachers let you wear sunglasses into your exams? And sunglases with a wierd looking attachment on the side and wires running out of it?

      I think that you're looking at 10+ years until this type of technology is even close to real use, and all it would require is for all glasses to be briefly checked as you head into the exam room.

      And besides, if you want to check it's not very hard to. There are many many ways to get away with cheating pretty cleanly, but then again you're only cheating yourself in the long run.
  • On /. a few weeks ago there was a link to the wearable computers guy at MIT who's been doing the wearable borg thing for like 10 years--he had software that would show someone's name superimposed next to their face... combine that with these low profile glasses and you have something for forgetful people...think, no more:

    "Hi, I'd like you to meet Anna"

    "My name's Arlene."

    "oh, err...."
  • You know those situations where you meet someone and they recognise you but you haven't a clue who they are... easy. Face recognition software and it prints up in your sunglasses... 'that's your mother'.

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