Sleeker smartglasses boast more features
The design principle of form following function has been a big stumbling block in the development of wearable technology – especially smartglasses. But researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering in Germany have now developed a technology that allows the specs to be made in small, unobtrusive designs with improved functionality.
Models usual consist of two parts: a micro-display that generates the image and optics that project the image on the desired position. Both units are attached to the temple (earpiece). Although the micro-display of the glasses measures 8 x 15mm the optics are only 5mm long. Instead of having single long optics, the scientists have placed many small optics alongside each other in an array.
“This allows us to obtain the same results with a much shorter structure,” explains Dr Peter Schreiber, group manager in the Microoptical Systems department at Fraunhofer IOF.
While commercially available data glasses often project the image on the edge of the field of view meaning users have to look up and to the right, users of the new model see the information where the context dictates it should be. One example application for this, Fraunhofer suggests, is for tourists who will be able to see all important information about a place they are visiting instantly as it flashes up on their data glasses. If they were trying to find their way around in unfamiliar surroundings, these glasses will be able to display navigation data taken from their smartphone directly in their field of view. To achieve this researchers apply a nanoscale lattice structure – invisible to the human eye – to a glass plate, purposing it as light guide. The optical image is coupled into the light guide through a lattice, guided to the required position, coupled back out through a lattice there, and reflected into the wearer’s field of view.
“The manufacturing methods are suitable for large-scale production and are already used in the industry, so making the glasses is easy and cost-effective,” says Schreiber.
A demonstrator model will be put through its paces at the World of Photonics laser trade show which will take place later this month in Munich, Germany.