Lightguide optics could soon make smartglasses less socially awkward

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A new display technology can embed smartglass displays directly inside the lenses, resulting in much more streamlined look that won't attract nearly as many stares as current-generation smart glasses(Credit: Juha Sarkkinen/VTT Research)

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Scientists at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have developed a display technology that may soon spell the end of awkward-looking smartglasses. The resulting displays are thin, lightweight, and much more discrete than those of current-generation hi-tech spectacles.

A combination of faster processors and wise power management could one day make smartglasses our gadget of choice to manage home appliances, snap hands-free pictures and perhaps replace our smartphones and tablets for daily use. For that to happen, however, smartglasses will first need to shed their "geeky gadget" looks for something much closer to a regular pair of glasses.

A technique known as lightguide optics could now bring that future closer to reality by allowing the creation of next-generation smartglass displays. According to the scientists involved, the new displays are highly transparent, lightweight, only 1 mm (0.04 in) thick and, most importantly, can be manufactured in any shape to integrate with existing lenses.

Embedding the display directly within the lenses could be a huge leap for smartglasses. Arguably, the most eye-catching (or, if you prefer, stare-attracting) feature of Google Glass is its very prominent retinal display: virtually removing it from sight could go a long way toward making this and other wearables more streamlined and socially comfortable to wear.

In a proof-of-concept, VTT spin-off company Dispelix Oy created a display that formed images within the user's field of view that were reportedly as large as a 60-inch TV seen from a distance of three meters (10 ft) away. For reference, this is approximately double the stated field of view for the Google Glass display.

Displays manufactured with this new technique can be designed to show simple monochrome information or multi-colored images, can be made out of either glass or plastic depending on their intended use, and can already integrate with current smartglasses.

Dispelix says it is now working with industry partners on reaching mass production, with the goal of starting customer deliveries sometime next year.

Source: VTT Research

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