Saturday, June 6, 2009

German scientists create eyeglass display that responds to eye movement

German scientists create eyeglass display that responds to eye movement

Displays incorporated into eyeglasses — or even contact lenses — have been popular fare of spy fiction from Mission: Impossible to Torchwood. It's wicked cool to see messages like "THAT IS THE TARGET -- ELIMINATE HIM" scroll by your field of view, but the glasses are almost always one-way, with the wearer just a passive observer of incoming data. Now researchers in Germany are about to do one better than science fiction, creating an eyeglass display that a user can control with simple eye movements.

How does it work? Hit the jump for more.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute managed to pack a CMOS sensor and a tiny OLED projector into a single 19 x 17-millimeter chip that can be mounted on an eyeglass frame. The projector displays images directly onto the wearer's retina, creating the illusion of a high-contrast image floating about a three feet away. The sensor tracks eye movement, with the display responding accordingly. Want to go to the next page of a document? Flick your eyes the left. Close the document? Hold your eye closed for longer than a blink. Zoom out? Open really wide.

What's really remarkable about this technology is how compact it is (compare it with this Gaze Detector from a couple of years ago). Battery power might be an issue, but there's no reason you couldn't design a power pack that fits compactly in the frame. And putting sensors in for both eyes would be a must — there would be so many more "commands" a wearer could make than with just one. In any case, we can't wait for the day when we can slip on our phone/glasses and make a call without lifting a finger or saying one word.

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