Monday, April 23, 2012

Spotlight On Technology: A Dashboard For Reality?

If you've ever played a video game, participated in an MMORPG, or been part of the many online worlds out there, then you are familiar with the idea of superimposing text or graphics on top of a scene. This lets you move around and interact inside of the virtual environment while viewing critical information about what is going on around you, such as damaged sustained or ammo remaining while in a battle situation.

These types of displays are known as heads-up displays, or HUDs, because they let you keep your "head up" while you're navigating your way through the world. They are similar to the dashboard in your car, which places all of the visual indicators in a single location that is close to your field of view, usually below or above the scene. But unlike a dashboard, a HUD display can place text or graphics directly on the screen at any point, and can be arranged in ways that minimize the eye movement required.

While this is great when working with video games and online worlds, what's really exciting is the notion of extending this same technology into reality. This can evidently be accomplished through special lenses, with components that generate the text and images, and then focus it at a different point on your eye than the surrounding light, so that everything appears in focus to you. Like so many other advances, what used to be considered science fiction may soon become commonplace.

A company called Innovega is already working with the military to develop special contact lenses and glasses that will let soldiers see information in front of them as they move around...sort of a reality-based HUD or dashboard. This technology is expected to be available to the public by 2014! Also, Google has thrown its hat into the ring with Project Glass, something only in the planning stages at this point but that would provide the same type of experience. Check out this concept video, showing what Google envisions their product could do:

While the prospect of this is very exciting, I see it opening the door for some potential problems. For example, what would keep students from using this as a way to cheat on exams? Or how unnerving might it be to think that someone could be going through information on you while you are standing there talking to them? In any case, it is a fascinating idea that I'm sure will have many practical applications.

You can read more about these developments here:


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