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Wifi glasses project vision of the future

posted 28 Feb 2012, 05:32 by Mpelembe   [ updated 28 Feb 2012, 05:33 ]

Spectacles have reached a new level of sophistication. An Israeli optics company says its glasses can now be used as a projection screen for all kinds of digital information from smart phone data to augmented reality, directly to the user's line of sight.

Gone are the days when people have to rush to seek an internet connection to read e-mails on their laptops. An Israeli optics company has moved the technology into a new dimension, inventing a wireless solution that allows users to view anything from social media applications and entertainment to GPS through their own spectacles.
The miniature video projector, a patented light guide optical element, can turn eyeglasses into a personal video screen at the click of a button on a small black box attached to the bespectacled individual's ear. And it's not just for people who already wear prescription glasses. Its creators say any set of frames can be adapted for the technology.

"The principle of this device is quite simple. A video image is created inside this black box, this image is then inserted inside this thin glass and then coupled out into the eyes of the user in such a way that he sees a gigantic screen having a three dimensional image floating in the air," said Yaacov Amitay, CEO of Lumus Ltd. who founded the company in 2000.

The light waves travel through fibre optics within the lenses where they are enlarged and directed at the eyes. The high resolution, transparent, wearable display creates the illusion of a large 87 inch screen at a perceived distance of about three metres (10 feet).

The device can come in a variety of forms, from a wearable display to a mounted helmet, and the lenses can be applied with simple clips added to the glasses.

The technology is already in use in by pilots flying U.S. airforce F16 fighter jets and other industries using augmented reality scenarios but for mainstream consumers, the next target audience, Amitay says there is still room for improvement.

"You see any optical device can be improved. We can see, we can make it smaller, even so that it's quite small now. We can make the image even bigger, even though it's quite big and of course we have to make it that it will be not expensive that anybody can buy it and use it," said Amitay, who, as a trained physicist, was looking into solutions for optical communication when he came up with the idea more than a decade ago.

Ari Grobman, business development manager at Lumus Ltd, said the company has been approached by major manufacturers of cellular phones and portable media players.

Grobman says the applications are endless.

"Whether you are looking through the internet browser or you are actually doing work on your smart phone all the way to entertainment types of applications, whether it's 3D entertainment, whether it's gaming, the large screen enables that to the small portable device. The other thing is as you will notice, it's actually see-through so that enables you to overlay information over reality, think of all types of basic heads-up information, simple navigation information or even more advanced, you know, talk about augmented reality, where I can actually overlay specific directions 'how to get to a Starbucks' or if I have friends of mine that are in the area it could actually highlight them over my field of view," said Grobman from Lumus's offices in Rehovot in central Israel.

After adapting the product to current aesthetic trends, Grobman expects the product to be in the mainstream consumer market by 2014.

"This is a prototype, you could easily cut the wire, have wireless connections embedded in here, you know, wirelessly talk to your smart phone so that's definitely possible as well as the aesthetics, I mean...we believe that this is our optical engine module is actually small enough, you could have a very natural look and consumers won't be afraid to walk around in public, you know, non-dorky, you could actually make it something pretty cool".

Aside from gaming, entertainment and work related applications, Grobman said various applications of augmented reality can be used for facial recognition, for example, where you can embed a camera and see who the person is that you are talking to and even provide you data from social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Once you enable the capability, there is a whole world of applications that will open up, said Grobman.

Grobert expects the venture capital-funded company to enjoy explosive growth over the next couple of years.