Video glasses usually suck. But Lumus has a pair we might actually be willing to wear. For those of you watching at home, we first spotted these see-through displays back in December, and were pleased to find them out on the show floor. They're not the most practical things in the world in their current development kit form, but it's the sort of future-tech we can't to see in the mainstream.
For those of you graced with the gift of less-than-perfect-sight, imagine having GPS navigation to augment a pair of prescription lenses, or the ability to read through emails with the blink of an eye. We’ve heard these types of promises before, but Lumus thinks it can actually deliver.
The Israeli company demonstrated two models of its Light-guide Optical Element (LOE) technology, in both video glasses and monocular form. Using fiber optics embedded within each lens, images or video from an HDMI source are reflected into a user's eyes. Unlike a typical pair of video glasses, however, the image doesn't appear within the lens itself, but from ten feet away. Thanks to some smart focusing tricks, the resulting image is similar to a virtual 87-inch screen—albeit one that appears to float in mid-air.
By having the user focus on infinity—as opposed to an image on the lens—Lumus representatives explained that the user's eyes remain relaxed, and eye strain is greatly reduced. And because each lens operates independently from the other, it's trivial for Lumus to produce 3D images too. The downside, however, is that those with less-than-perfect eyesight must use a special corrective insert for the image to appear in-focus. At the very least, we were told these lenses could be cut to almost any shape or size, which should give OEMs some freedom in how this technology is produced.
All told, we were impressed with how well the development kit performed. When the display's brightness was reduced to just 40 per-cent, images with a black background appeared transparent, allowing colored objects to essentially float in mid-air. However, if increased to 100, the LOE functioned as a typical LCD display, blocking out most of the image on the other side of the lens. Even when pointed towards ambient light, the colors were surprisingly bright and vibrant, and looked even better when the display was pointed at a dark colored backdrop or surface.
This sort of tech doesn't come cheap, however. Lumus representatives suggested the technology would cost around $700 to implement, though the actual price would obviously be left to licensing OEMs.