While watching Star Wars, Minority Report and the Real Steel movies people wondered whether we can actually have those futuristic transparent digital screens in real life. It seems that the scientific community has finally found a reason to introduce such products to the common man.
We are talking about gesture based virtual reality environment wherein a user can interact with a digital system through innovative ways. In this context, technology geeks are already familiar with Google Glass and other video entertainment based heads-up displays, such as those produced by Epson (Japan) and Sony (Japan). In fact, there are several smaller startups which are adamant on launching products that can compete against Google Glass or that can provide the similar features in unexplored domains, such as industrial training and adventure sports.
However, what if there is a technology that can promise to get rid of those bulky units wrapped around the forehead? Is there room for a traditional eye wear through which we can simultaneously view virtual content and the entire spectrum of real-world activities?
All these seem quiet probable in the near future. Given the hoopla around augmented reality devices based on transparent glasses and holographic projection technology, such a reality is indeed possible. Going by the prototype demonstrations of the US based startup Innovega Inc’s iOptik at the CES events one can sense that Google Glass has initiated blitzkrieg of innovations in the wearable computing space. Innovega is in a favorable position to draw consumer attraction solely because of the involvement of novel two-part display architecture.
While a special pair of contact lenses can allow human eyes to simultaneously focus on near and distant objects, the tiny projector fitted eyeglasses can transmit data and respond to user inputs to display relevant content. The fact that the first prototypes were developed for the US Military use in 2013 provides ample room for the introduction of prototypes for the general population. If things fall in place, we might be seeing iOptik in the markets within the next 24 months.
What would be interesting is that iOptik can open up myriad channels of integrating a product into a compatible interactive display, starting from normal users to prescription glass wearers. Besides, the bifurcated form factor, unlike Google Glass, offers new avenues to incorporate these wearable devices into more professional devices that often require wearable computing devices to ensure safety and have access to accurate real-time information.
With the commercial production of Google Glass, consumer-grade HUDs are likely to be shipped in millions by 2015. The positive response about Google Glass will invigorate startups to resolve the key issues faced by the current generation of wearable devices – a bulky design and the dependence on an external computing device.
Eventually, as product iterations get aligned to consumer demands, one can expect innovative products such as iOptik to impose reasonable competition to alternates churned out by the established players. Given the right financial support, favorable features and judicious pricing, manufacturers of wearable devices may find a sweet spot, during the next two years, to make a logical transition from military and automobile solutions to consumer-grade solutions.
This article was written by Shauvik Haldar, Senior Analyst with DART Consulting.