Nokia and Several Universities Show Loupe – a New Virtual Reality Concept

Source: UIST Proceedings

Head Mounted Display – A very impressive number of researchers are working on a loupe style handheld display device. The research group seems to be led by Nokia, which has the most people associated with the paper. Also involved are the Simon Fraser University, Lancaster University, Ulm University, Yahoo Labs and MIT.

The resulting loupe device looks like a small tube housing the electronics that make it work. There is a little display combined with touch controls and some optical components to adjust the focus. The following image shows the device components.

Source: UIST Proceedings

This is a simple prototype with most of its focus on the human machine interaction, as you would expect from a paper presented at UIST (User interface software and technology). The device is an alternative to other augmented reality and virtual reality devices that is held in front of the eye if needed. The method of interaction is focusing on how to change content on the included display.  The following video shows how this works.

The resulting effect is an on-demand near-eye display that allows easy access to a variety of applications. If so desired, the display can be brought in front of the eye to show the desired application content.  I have to admit that holding a tiny tube trumps any smartphone in its geek factor by miles.

As the paper explains, this device has a 10 year old ancestor  in the Nokia Kaleidoscope pocket image viewer, which seems to have brought life to this implementation of virtual reality.

The device has a unique form factor and the user interface is taking advantage of this by assembling the various app icons around the virtual image. By turning the device, the user can switch between applications. Furthermore, the device has two settings for the focal plane, far and near. In the far setting, which is realized via the mechanical focus mechanism, the apps show content related to people that are not that close.  For example, in a social app like Facebook, the far focal setting will show posts from friends and associates in the wider circle, while the near focal setting will show posts from close relatives and friends. A very interesting approach to classify content according to context and source.

The group noted that the unique interaction form factor is key to the further research in this type of device. There is no mention if this device will ever hit the consumer market or not. – Norbert Hildebrand