June 05, 2009 You don't need to work for the secret service or as a jet fighter pilot to appreciate the sheer convenience – and craftiness – of being able to grab hold of crucial information, without so much as lifting a finger or batting an eyelid. Students at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany are developing a pair of interactive data eyeglasses that can project an image onto the retina from an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) micro-display, making the image appear as if it's a meter in front of the wearer. While similar headwear only throws up a static image, the students are working on eye-tracking technology that allows wearers, with just the movement of the eyeball, to scroll through information or move elements about.
While similar headwear – sometimes referred to as head-mounted displays (HMDs) – only throws up a static image, the students are working on eye-tracking technology that allows wearers, with just the movement of the eyeball, to scroll through information or move elements about.
The glasses are designed to provide information to wearers who don't have their hands free to operate a keyboard or mouse.
Dr Michael Scholles, business unit manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) in Dresden, believes these devices have a ready-made application in the medical field where they could be used to quickly project vital patient information or medical imaging to doctors during a consultation or surgery.
Scholles also sees applications in the construction industry where the glasses could be used to project drawings or installation instructions.
As the image needs to outshine the ambient light to be seen clearly against changing and highly contrasting backgrounds, OLEDs have been used to produce a high-luminance micro-display.
While existing data glasses only display information, the German students are hoping to make the micro-display technology bi-directional and interactive, which will open up new uses, says Scholles. The eye-tracking device the students are working on - which is fitted to the hinge of the glasses - will enable users to influence the content projected by simply moving their eyes or fixing on certain points in the image.
New content can be displayed and menus can be scrolled through or picture elements shifted. According to Scholles, they have concentrated on making the glasses inexpensive as well as small and light – the system’s eye tracker and image reproduction integrated into the CMOS chip measure 19.3mm by 17mm.