The recent rise in wrist-based wearable technology (as described in Part 1 of our series on Wearable Technology) perfectly demonstrates how tech can be easily and non-obtrusively integrated into everyday objects such as what we wear. However wearable technology is certainly not limited to wristwear, as the potential designs are quite exciting and could vastly improve our interactions with technology. An example of wearable tech that could have a wide range of applications are Heads Up Displays.
Heads up displays (otherwise more commonly known as HUDs), are systems where data is projected onto any clear surface that is viewed through as a sort of overlay. Whilst inspired by weapon sights and originally implemented by militaries for deployed aircraft, HUDs for displaying important information have now become commonplace in commercial aircraft and high end motor vehicles. Now with research undertaken by technology giants such as Google, soon we could have heads up displays in your favourite designer sunglasses or corrective spectacles.
The current technology is still somewhat bulky and not so stylish, such as the Google Glass, a HUD & Camera headset that whilst wasn’t a huge commercial success, was a proof of concept that it is possible to create a headset that does not require a power/data tether cable to function, the only hurdles now are to make the technology smaller in order to be integrated into more fashionable items. Other commercially available items have had greater success in other markets, such as there is a variety of ski-goggles that have limited displays that show data such as speed, temperature, etc.
The possibilities for the potential benefits for HUD tech do not stop at easily and unobtrusively displaying key information such as weather, navigation, health readouts, etc. Whilst most current HUDs are generally static displays, where the information is typically fixed in location in the field of view (perhaps with the exception of some Aircraft HUDs), there is huge potential in integrating Augmented Reality.
Essentially what Augmented Reality (or AR) means is a system much like conventional HUDs, where information is overlayed over reality. Except AR is much more advanced, as the system interprets your field of view of the world via cameras, depth perception sensors, and orientation & location positioning. That data is then processed in real-time and then information is overlayed your vision as if it existed in real life. AR may be confused for VR, or Virtual Reality; where rather than adding to reality, or ‘augmenting’, it relies on creating an entire digital world largely independent of reality (a popular example is the famed Kickstarter project Oculus Rift, which has seen huge success in it’s own arena)
Examples of potential uses of AR that helps explain the concept could be features such as when you’re traveling overseas, your glasses could be projecting digital translations over signs written in different languages as if the sign was always written in the user’s native language. Another could be ‘projecting’ the route to your destination from Google Maps onto the road/footpath that you selected on your smartphone or maybe selected via voice activation. An even more exciting idea could be manipulating virtual objects in real-time such as a recently downloaded 3D computer model from a colleague or a website such as Thingiverse; the future possibilities are only limited by the imagination.
An early version of this Augmented Reality technology is already in development by technological giant Microsoft, who debuted their innovation at E3 expo earlier this year: the HoloLens. Whilst this unit is still quite bulky, it will be available for developers in 2016 and will only be a matter of time before technology similar to this could be integrated into your favourite set of RayBans.
We here from PC Medic are super excited to try this technology for ourselves and to see how it develops. Of course if you have any questions about the technology in your life, feel free to give us a call or email anytime. Stay tuned for Part 3 in our series in Wearable Technology!