For the last few years we saw the steady performance progress of head mounted displays in the consumer space. It was an accepted paradigm, that we need to create a large (>50") image for the viewer from a device that might fit in your pocket. Many companies worked on better solutions and the latest head mounted display (HMD) from Sony actually reaches HD resolution (720p).
The attached table shows some consumer-oriented video glasses that are available in the market today. Most glasses are LED / LCD based. With the exception of the Sony glasses the resolution is limited to well below HD requirements. This is one of the reasons limiting the success of these glasses in the market.
As a two display solution most head mounted displays are perfectly suited to create a 3D image as there is no cross talk, loss of brightness or loss of temporal resolution.
During the last few months, the Google Glass project has made headlines by pushing a one eye approach of a head mounted display. This approach is completely different from the discussed video glasses above, as they are aimed more at a new usage paradigm - augmented reality. Here the viewer is not using the glasses to be entertained, but seeks hands-free access information while being completely mobile. This opens up a completely new avenue for head mounted displays.
As can be seen in the picture this new path to head mounted displays leads in a completely new direction. What was important from a usage perspective before does not seem to be as important for augmented reality, while other things such as lightweight, battery life, and connectivity are becoming more important.
There is more to the augmented reality development than just the Google Glass project though. The next table shows an overview of some augmented reality glasses that are aimed at consumers. We can’t forget the very expensive augmented reality headgear that fighter and other pilots are wearing today. These forerunners of augmented reality glasses are very expensive and very task specific, while these new consumer versions are way more flexible and address very different requirements through an open platform approach similar to the Smartphone and its app infrastructure. While we are still wondering about video calling in our home, our children will wonder about the quality of the video call on their augmented reality headset and why there are so many dropped calls.
While some early adaptors are already offering headsets, these are more or less for professional uses such medical, technical or scientific applications. Google, Olympus and Apple seem to have a more consumer oriented view of this application though.
What does Apple has to do with this you may wonder. They just got a patent awarded that describes augmented reality glasses that are capable of displaying images transmitted from a mobile computing platform. Will they ever make such glasses or will they use their patent for bartering in the increasingly complex patent landscape? We will have to wait and see. For those of you who wonder why Apple is so late to this game, the patent application dates back to 2006, way before the advent of the Smartphone. This shows you what a good technology platform strategy can do for you.