Posts Tagged ‘unified’

Game-changing technology: wearable unified displays with scalable imagery

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

In a time when new technology and gadgets are launched everyday, and every one of their makers proclaim them to be game-changers, it is truly heartening to see products showcasing technology that has genuine potential to become a game changer in the near future.

Wearable video displays are an example. The Epson Moverio and Google Glass are examples of such gadgets.

Wearable unified displays can be used everywhere and for any purpose in the future, here an aircraft engineer has his hands free while referencing his technical manual through an Epson Moverio.

Wearable unified displays can be used everywhere and for any purpose in the future. Here an aircraft engineer can have his hands free (if he clips the controller to his overalls) while referencing his technical manual through an Epson Moverio.

In my humble opinion, there are two main constraints in consumer devices that represent frontiers in product developments for gadget makers.

Google Glass was showed off by co-founder Sergey Brin (not in this picture) at the Google I/O conference in June.

Google Glass was showed off by co-founder Sergey Brin (not in this picture) at the Google I/O conference in June.

These are display technology and device input.

What defines a smartphone and a tablet, laptop and a laptop, or even a television and even the cinema?

It is the size and form factor of the device.

Apart from the backend processor and performance, a large determinant of their category is simply their screen size.

If it’s a 3-5 inch device (with 3G connectivity), it’s a smartphone. 7-10 inch flat screen (with or without 3G), it’s a tablet (used to be netbook not too long ago).

Beyond that, you have the 13-17 inch notebook computer, and still beyond that – the desktops with even bigger screens.

Sony HMZ T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Sony HMZ T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Need we go into the numerous sizes for TVs, projectors and erm – cinemas?

A large determinant of device portability and usability – which often run counter to each other – is the size of the display.

Greater portability results in more squinting, whereas nice expansive viewing pleasure means bigger heavier screens.

A viewer/display device that allows the user to divorce display size from processing hardware will free the user from having to own multiple devices with different form factors.

Imagine the ability to make calls, read ebooks, play games, work on documents or edit images/video, watch the equivalent of large-screen movies on a single viewer/display.

Wanna look like an X-men? Try the Cyclops look.

Wanna look like an X-men? Try the Cyclops look.

No need to purchase separate bulky devices with their own different-sized displays.

You’d still need to have the little black-boxes containing the different processing hardware and device input.

But imagine sharing the same viewer/display amongst all these devices.

All of them “plug” into the same viewer/display.

There’s no more difference between a smartphone and a 3G-capable tablet computer.

Cameras and camcorders could also pair up wirelessly.

Although the device closest to bringing this to reality is the mounted-visor display/viewer, I’m sure there’ll be other physical means and ways to achieve this “unified display”.

Olympus has just announced its wearable display prototype - MEG4.0.

Olympus has just announced its wearable display prototype – MEG4.0.

Eventually, I can envisage (pun intended) displays embedded in contact lenses or even implanted into the cornea of the eyes.

In fact, patents have already been filed for such designs.

I haven’t seen any patents that bypass the eyes and inject vision signals directly into the brain though.

In a way, nature already unifies human vision through our eyes. We do not put on a different set of eyes to see different things.

The Olympus MEG 4.0 promises to connect to devices via Bluetooth.

The Olympus MEG 4.0 promises to connect to devices via Bluetooth.

Everything we see are through the same pair of eyes.

Why should we require a different screen to view the contents of different devices?

Now this single unified display may not be good news to device makers, although it surely should be the dream of consumers – even if we may not realise it yet.

Surely it’s better to be able to sell a single user multiple devices with different screen sizes if his/her needs forces him/her to do so.

Many users today own separate tablets and smartphones.

Sony HMZ T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Sony HMZ T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Apple, for instance, would rather sell you an iPhone AND an iPad, than only a single mobile device that “throws” its display into a single viewer with a “scalable” image size.

Google Glass with augmented reality.

Google Glass with augmented reality.

I’m sure it isn’t even news to the makers.

It’s a bit akin to traditional airlines offering budget flights.

Why introduce new budget services – even though it would benefit customers – that will change the game and threaten their erstwhile profitable business?

Fortunately, we have entrepreneurs who have broken the ranks to offer such choice to budget travellers.

A closer analogy would be the way netbooks had cannibalised the mainstream laptop market.

Sony HMZ T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Sony HMZ T1 Personal 3D Viewer

We have Asus to thank for “creating” the netbook niche to bring affordable and no-frills portable computing to the masses.

The Epson Moverio and Google Glass are not the first such device on the market, and in their current form are not mature enough for mass adoption by consumers yet – in terms of usability and feature-set, as well as content and consumer readiness.

But hopefully it precipitates more momentum to force makers to get on the bandwagon.

The other frontier

The other “physical constraint” to device form-factor is input interaction, a large part of which is text-input.

The size of screen again comes into the picture again if an on-screen keyboard is used.

And if a physical keyboard is used – be it a BlackBerry style keypad or a bigger portable keyboard – it translates into the overall form factor of the device.

Voice-input represents a means to free a device from a physical or on-screen keyboard, and even provide interactivity – through voice commands and voice search.

It’s also still early days and much development is needed before we can enjoy keyboardless devices

But as consumers and end-users, we can always dream on.

* Photos and illustrations used in this article belong to Epson, Google, Sony, and Olympus.

窥探一下未来的显示浏览器。如今已有一些头目。譬如:Epson Moverio BT-100, Google Glass, Sony HMZ T1 Personal 3D Viewer, Olympus MEG4.0。希望有朝一日,能够只凭一个显示机利用多种电子设备器材。