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The Sunglasses That May Someday Replace Your Smartphone

For anyone who is not a fighter pilot or is unfamiliar with video games, a heads up display (HUD) might be a new concept. A heads up display can best be described as a screen that projects information within a person’s field of vision in order to conveniently augment what the user sees. Within a video game, this information generally pertains to the character’s health and weapons. Soon, video games may not be the only way most people use HUDs.

A few different manufacturers are currently creating HUDs for commercial use. Motorola demonstrated a head-mounted miniature computer with a HUD at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January, the Japanese company Brother is developing the AirScouter glasses-mounted HUD, and Google is working on its own glasses-based HUD prototype.

Motorola is using movement-based technologies in their Golden-i HUD. Motorola did not base its head-mounted computer on glasses as the other models are, but instead has the main computer components in a strip that goes around the back of the neck. A piece comes up over the user’s ear, then down to rest underneath the right eye. This is where the display is, which is a .44-inch screen that appears to the user as 15 inches when he or she looks directly into it.

Brother calls their glasses-based HUD technology the AirScouter. This set of glasses projects the HUD image directly onto the user’s retina. It creates the illusion of a transparent 16-inch screen floating about three feet in front of the user. The AirScouter also sends real-time data back to the user’s computer, so that a user can record all of the data from the AirScouter.

Google has not officially announced anything about their HUD, reportedly called Google Goggles, but there are many rumors online about the prototype. Supposedly, the glasses operate similarly to a smartphone, with the HUD in the lower section of one or both eyes of the glasses. Users control the Google Goggles through slight head movements such as tilting to scroll.

All three of these HUD technologies require more time and work before they are ready to be sold, but even when they are eventually completed they are unlikely to be available to individuals. All three companies, Google, Motorola, and Brother, are planning on exclusively marketing and selling their HUD-enabled products to businesses and public service associations. Google is purportedly worried that if it tried mass marketing the Google Goggles, they would not go over well.

These developing devices could lead to great advances in technology, but they will of course come with a completely new set of mobile computer support problems as well. A glasses-based computer (or perhaps a monocle computer) that users could wear all the time would be convenient and possibly very popular, but these devices have a long way to go before users ditch their smartphones for a HUD.


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