Optical head-mounted display
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An optical head-mounted display (OHMD) is a wearable device that has the capability of reflecting projected images as well as allowing the user to see through it, similar to augmented reality technology. OHMD technology has existed since 1997 in various forms, but despite a number of attempts from industry, has yet to be commercialised.
- 1 Types
- 2 Input devices
- 3 Notable manufacturers
- 3.1 MicroOptical and MyVu
- 3.2 Sony
- 3.3 IBM and Olympus
- 3.4 Mirage Innovations and Nokia
- 3.5 DigiLens and SBG Labs
- 3.6 Lumus
- 3.7 MicroVision
- 3.8 Penny
- 3.9 Brother Industries
- 3.10 Konica Minolta
- 3.11 Optinvent
- 3.12 Optical Research Associates
- 3.13 Augmented Vision
- 3.14 Vuzix
- 3.15 Atheer
- 3.16 Epson
- 3.17 Meta
- 3.18 GlassUp
- 3.19 Laster Technologies
- 3.20 Innovega
- 3.21 Fraunhofer COMEDD
- 3.22 Trivisio
- 3.23 The Technology Partnership (TTP)
- 3.24 Telepathy
- 3.25 Oculon Optoelectronics
- 3.26 Fujitsu
- 3.27 Baidu
- 3.28 Vufine
- 3.29 Microsoft
- 3.30 LAFORGE Optical
- 3.31 Toshiba
- 3.32 Ashkelon Eyewear Technologies
- 4 Recent developments
- 5 Market structure
- 6 Comparison of various OHMDs technologies
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
Various techniques have existed for see-through HMDs. Most of these techniques can be summarized into two main families: "Curved Mirror" (or Curved Combiner) based and "Waveguide" or "Light-guide" based. The curved mirror technique has been used by Vuzix in their Star 1200 product, by Olympus, and by Laster Technologies. Various waveguide techniques have existed for some time. These techniques include diffraction optics, holographic optics, polarized optics, and reflective optics:
- Diffractive waveguide – slanted diffraction grating elements (nanometric 10E-9). Nokia technique now licensed to Vuzix.
- Holographic waveguide – 3 holographic optical elements (HOE) sandwiched together (RGB). Used by Sony and Konica Minolta.
- Polarized waveguide – 6 multilayer coated (25–35) polarized reflectors in glass sandwich. Developed by Lumus.
- Reflective waveguide – thick light guide with single semi-reflective mirror. This technique is used by Epson in their Moverio product.
- "Clear-Vu" reflective waveguide – thin monolithic molded plastic w/ surface reflectors and conventional coatings developed by Optinvent and used in their ORA product.
- Switchable waveguide – developed by SBG Labs.
Augmented reality systems guru Karl Guttag compared the optics of diffractive waveguides against the competing technology, reflective waveguides.
Head-mounted displays are not designed to be workstations, and traditional input devices such as keyboards do not support the concept of smart glasses. Input devices that lend themselves to mobility and/or hands-free use are good candidates, for example:
- Touchpad or buttons
- Compatible devices (e.g. smartphones or control unit)
- Speech recognition
- Gesture recognition
- Eye tracking
- Brain–computer interface
MicroOptical and MyVu
In June 1995, MicroOptical was founded by Dr. Mark Spitzer to develop advanced micro-optical devices reduced to the size of integrated circuits. The company was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency through a contract with the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command for the development of optical micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). In 1997, MicroOptical demonstrated the eyewear display in which the viewing optics were incorporated in the eyeglass lens. The eyeglasses display provided a 320x240 pixel resolution with 8 bit greyscale and a field of view of approximately 8 degrees (horizontal).
On 16 June 2003, MicroOptical announced the availability of the SV-6 PC Viewer, the first eyewear-mounted display specifically designed for use with mobile personal computers. It was small, ultra-lightweight and highly ergonomic and could connect to mobile computing devices via a VGA output. Its initial price tag was US$1995. In March 2007, MicroOptical changed its name to MyVu and at CES 2008 it demonstrated the Crystal 701, video eyewear which lets the user watch a large virtual screen from 6 feet away and It featured MyVu's patented SolidOptex® optical system, a VGA (640x480) resolution, a cables that allow the user to connect it to MP4 players, DVD players, camcorders, or gaming systems with composite video output and a battery that provides up to 4 hours of video viewing. In May 2008, the Crystal was launched at Amazon and Best Buy with the price tag of $300.
However, the company did not survive the 2008 recession, and in 2010 it was dissolved. Its assets, including patents, were sold to Foxconn which then formed subsidiary View Link Technology in Singapore, with the mission to establish a new line of wearable near-eye systems for industrial, medical, and consumer use. In August 2012, Mark Spitzer, formerly a principal scientist at Kopin Corporation and the founder and CEO of MicroOptical/MyVu, was hired by Google as a Director of Operations at Google X. In April 2013, Google acquired several of MicroOptical/MyVu patents from Foxconn, who is in contract with Google to manufacture the Google Glass in Santa Clara, California.
In 1997, Sony released the Glasstron, an HMD which included two LCD screens and two earphones for video and audio respectively. It also had a mechanical shutter to allow the display to become see through
At SID 2008, Sony unveiled a holographic-based see-through eyewear display that shows full-color video images at a transmissivity of 85% and a luminance of 2500 cd/m2. On 14 November 2012 Sony filed a patent for a binocular eyewear display which features a camera, battery packs, a 2D interface and customizable screens by allowing the user to move the lens several millimeters. This recent filing is a continuation on patents filed in 2008 and 2009.
IBM and Olympus
In September 1998, IBM Japan demonstrated a wearable PC. Its components included a lightweight monocular head-mounted display with a monochrome resolution, headphones for sound and video, a controller / microphone for control and a control unit. It ran Windows 98 and featured a 233 MHz Pentium MMX, 64 MB of RAM, a 340 MB IBM MicroDrive and USB interface. It could be controlled by voice commands or through a hand-held tracker ball. It was intended to be marketed for maintenance, repair and system installation staff by allowing the user to call up information from reference manuals and reference books on the eye level display, keeping their hands free.
In December 1999, IBM Japan and Olympus Optical demonstrated the PC Eye-Trek, a wearable PC that comprises the IBM-developed small PC unit and a monocular, eyewear display developed by Olympus (in replacement of IBM's monochrome eyewear display). Olympus's eyewear display used a free-shaped prism and a high-performance optical filter to allow it to be lightweight and an optical see-through. It featured a 0.47-inch reflective-field sequential LCD display with 800×600 full-color resolution supplied by Colorado Micro Display and gave the impression of looking at a 10-inch screen from a distance of 20 inches. By using reflective-type LCD, the power consumption was kept to a minimal 1.6 watts. Independently. Olympus showed a prototype finger-set input device. In a demonstration, the index finger movement was assigned as slow cursor movement, an index and middle finger together were assigned as quick cursor movement. When a finger bends quickly, the movement is interpreted as a "click". Combined with the PC Eye-Trek, a user can select an icon by just moving and tapping a finger in the air. In 2000, IBM launched the "Park Bench" TV commercial, which featured its vision for voice-activated wearable PCs.
On 5 July 2012 Olympus announced the MEG4.0, a Monocular eyewear display that contains a QVGA (320 x 240) resolution display and can connect to devices through Bluetooth 2.1. No announcements regarding the launch date or the price were made.
Mirage Innovations and Nokia
In 1998, the Israeli company Mirage Innovations was founded by Yair David and Yariv Ben-Yehuda. In 2001, the company R&D team transferred multicolor still images by diffractive planar optics and developed monocular displays. In February 2001 the company started negotiating with Nokia to develop the technology for use in Nokia's mobile phones and other mobile devices, but in September 2003 Nokia broke off the discussions. In September 2007, Mirage discovered that Nokia had filed three patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for technology that Mirage developed by itself or helped Nokia develop. The company tried to settle the matter but Nokia responded by accusing the company of infringement. Following Nokia's threat, Mirage was unable to secure key financing and was shut down in early 2008.
At Nokia World 2009, Nokia Research Center demonstrated an optical see-through eyewear display. It included eye-tracking capabilities, thus allowing the user to navigate and control the glasses just but focusing on the images or looking up or down. On 21 October 2011, Vuzix announced that it has entered into a technology license agreement with Nokia to develop and produce see-through waveguide optics for use in eyewear displays based on Nokia's proprietary see-through (Exit Pupil Expanding) EPE optics technology. At CES 2012, Vuzix demonstrated the SMART Glasses, a see-through eyewear display technology based on integrated HD display engines and waveguide optics that were licensed from Nokia. Vuzix also announced plans for a line of both monocular and binocular SMART Glasses with integrated head tracking and options for multiple camera technologies for the commercial, industrial and consumer market.
DigiLens and SBG Labs
In June 1997, DigiLens was founded by Jonathan D. Waldern with the mission to develop and market Switchable Bragg Grating nano-composite materials for the optical telecommunication and wireless microdisplay markets. On 11 January 2000, the company demonstrated the DL40, a compact, lightweight monocular eyewear display with a see-through and RGB color capabilities based on holographic polymer-dispersed liquid crystals technology. Later DigiLens changed its business model to focus its R&D on fibernet switching chips rather than HMDs. In October 2003, DigiLens was acquired by SBG Labs. Nowadays SBG Labs produces head-up displays based on their switchable waveguide technology for the United States Army and the People's Liberation Army. It also develops the VIRTUALITY HMEyetrack, a binocular see-through eyewear display.
In 2000, the Israeli company Lumus was founded by Dr. Yaakov Amitai to develop and market its Light-guide Optical Element (LOE) technology for eyewear displays (see-through wearable displays). The LOE is a patented optical waveguide that makes use of multiple partial reflectors embedded in a single substrate to reflect a virtual image into the eye of the wearer. Specifically, the image is coupled into the LOE by a "Pod" (micro-display projector) that sits at the edge of the waveguide—in an eyeglass configuration, this is embedded in the temple of the glasses. The image travels through total internal reflection to the multiple array of partial reflectors and are reflected to the eye. While each partial reflector shows only a portion of the image, the optics are such that the wearer sees the combined array and perceives it as a single uniform image projected at infinity. The transparent display enables a virtual image to be seamlessly overlaid over the wearer's real world view. This is especially true when the source image comprises a black background with light color wording or symbology being displayed. Black is essentially see-through color, while lighter colored objects, symbols or characters appear to float in the wearer's line of sight. Conversely, full-screen images like documents, internet pages, movies which are typically brighter colors can be displayed to look like a large virtual image floating a few meter's away from the wearer.
After years of R&D and building its patent portfolio, the company started officially selling product in 2008 with the PD-18: a top-down, transparent monocular display with SVGA resolution 32 degree FoV, and full color. The PD-18 and its derivative, the PD-14, were aimed at professional and military markets. In 2010 Lumus' technology received high-level validation when the US Air Force selected Gentex's Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System (which employs the Lumus PD-14), with Raytheon as the primary contractor, for the HMIT program for A-10 and F-16 Aircraft. This display and contract win marked the first time a full-color HMD was selected for combat aviation. Subsequently, Lumus' display as part of Thales Visionix's (formerly Gentex) Helmet Mounted Cueing System has been selected for the CHMDS / Air Soldier program. Once the roll out has been completed on this program, Lumus displays will represent the majority of HMDs deployed in the worldwide combat aviation market.
Lumus also has been working behind the scenes for years with a handful of Tier 1 consumer electronics manufacturers and tech companies. The company aims to be the Intel or the Qualcomm of the wearable display market—selling its optical engine modules as OEM components, while the Tier 1 companies will make the final products. Lumus is very quiet on its activities in this space citing confidentiality limitations, and barring rare trade show appearances (CES 2014,2012,2008, 2007, and a couple SID shows) the company exerts minimal marketing effort. Furthermore, Lumus' sparse website only shows a portion of its offerings to the consumer market. Other products or optical engine modules it makes for OEM customers will remain veiled until such customers launch their Lumus-based products.
In 2002, Microvision launched the Nomad Personal Display System, a head-worn, monochrome red, see-through virtual retinal display and in March 2004 it introduced the Nomad Expert Technician System, which was about 40% smaller, lighter, and costs less to manufacture than the prior version. However, following the poor ergonomics and eye strain of its products, the company decided to discount the product line in 2006.
The company continued to research and develop wearable displays and sought to develop a lightweight, see-through eyewear display, using its PicoP display engine and special optics that would embedded into fashionable glasses.
In February 2005, the Swedish company Penny was founded by Erik Lundström based on his own research at KTH and University of Stockholm where a first prototype was presented in 2000. The technology is patented by Erik Lundström with Penny as the owner.
Development of C Wear Interactive Glasses began in January 2006, the first proof of concept prototype of the C Wear Interactive Glasses BM10 was released for beta testing in January 2009 and sold as a 0-series to the market 4 months later. It was developed to significantly improve the use of information in a mobile environment for users with the need of Augmented Reality (AR) data without the ability to use hands or users having their hands occupied.
On 4 April 2009, the company announced that it signed a contract with BAE Systems Hagglunds in which the companies will jointly work on the integration of the Interactive Glasses BM10 in the BAE Systems Hägglunds products. BAE Systems Hägglunds tested the glasses in its tanks.
In September 2010, the development of the next version BM20 was initiated and the first 0 series was planned to be released in December 2012. In October 2011, the company introduced the C Wear Interactive Glasses BM20 during the Innovative Sweden event at Stanford University in Silicon Valley. The first complete series manufactured of the C Wear Interactive Glasses are to be released during 2014.
The C Wear Interactive Glasses BM20 comprises a see-through retina projection unit with an 873 x 500 full-color resolution OLED display with diagonal field of view of 47 degrees giving the impression of a ≈70-inch display at 2 meters. The transparency enables the image to be shown in the user direct line of sight. Navigation in the user interface is performed by a head tracking device based on 3D MEMS gyros and click commands by a soft sensor applied toward the user's own jawbone muscle. By pressing the jaw together the user "clicks".
In September 2013, Fraunhofer Institute announced that Penny and C Wear Interactive Glasses has been chosen as one of the partners in the LIAA project with aims creating and implementing a framework that enables humans and robots to truly work together in assembly tasks.
At Expo 2005, Brother Industries demonstrated a stationary-type of its Imaging Display, a projection technology that focuses light, of an intensity harmless to the eyes, onto the retina and then moves the light at high speed to create afterimages that give the user the impression of viewing a 16 square inch screen from a distance of 1 meter. The company developed the system by applying optical system technologies based on their laser printing technology, and piezoelectric technologies based on their ink-jet printing technology. It was developed in order to enable users to read documents such as operation manuals at the narrow spaces, or to be hands-free when they want to use both hands.
In 2008, Brother succeeded in developing a spectacle-type wearable RID prototype that's able to show SVGA resolution (800×600) with a 60 Hz frame rate and weights only 350 g. On 21 July 2010, it announced the AiRScouter and exhibited the device at "Brother World JAPAN 2010" in Tokyo on 15 September. On 24 August 2011, it announced the commercialization of the AiRScouter.
At CEATEC 2006, Konica Minolta displayed a prototype of lightweight, holographic-based see-through eyewear display which uses a prism with thickness of 3.5 mm and a holographic element to reduce the weight of the display to 27 grams. Possible applications under consideration included giving workers access to an instruction manual or allowing commuters to watch a video while riding a train.
In February 2007, the French company Optinvent was founded by Kayvan Mirza and Khaled Sarayeddine, with the mission to design and market optical projection systems that use microdisplays or electronic display slides, based on the Projection Optics work developed within the Thomson Group. The company sought to develop and market see-through eyewear displays, pico projectors, head-up displays, professional camera viewfinders, flight simulators and rear and front projection TVs, based on its unique optical technologies (Clear-Vu optics, Nano-Beam module and Slim-Chin Optical Engine). In September 2009, the company revealed that it is developing a small, lightweight optical see-through eyewear display based on its Clear-Vu technology at the cost of less than $200 per unit. The eyewear display was scheduled for release by the end of 2010 by Japanese maker.
At Augmented World Expo 2013, Optinvent demonstrated a prototype of their ORA see-through mobile AR display platform. The demonstrator included a monocular see-through display with the patented "Flip-Vu" feature allowing two positions for the virtual image. The display can be positioned directly in the wearer's field of vision or below it. One position is the "AR mode" whereby the image is directly superimposed on the wearers central field of vision; then by flipping the display down (mechanically), the wearer can have a "dashboard mode" whereby the virtual display is below the wearer's field of vision. This gives the possibility of having both true AR and a "glance at" capability in one device. A developer's version of the device running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean called the ORA-S including an SDK was said to be released soon and will include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, a nine-axis orientation sensor, a camera, a microphone, loudspeaker, and battery in the form of photochromic sunglasses.
Optical Research Associates
At the SPIE Optics + Photonics 2010 conference, the Engineering Services team at Optical Research Associates (ORA) demonstrated an optical see-through eyewear display with a 20-degree full diagonal field of view, 432x240 panel resolution and a distortion correction via an electronic warper. The company was said to be seeking partners to commercialize the device. On 7 October 2010, Synopsys announced that it acquires Optical Research Associates.
In November 2007, the University of Arizona's 3DVIS Lab (3D Visualization and Imaging System Lab), led by director Dr. Hong Hua, developed a polarized head-mounted projection display where the polarization states of the light are deliberately manipulated to maximize the luminous transfer efficiency. It comprises a pair of high-resolution ferroelectric liquid-crystal-on-silicon (FLCOS) microdisplays that help to further improve theoverall light efficiency and image quality and have much higher optical efficiency than a transmissive-type LCD.
On 19 April 2010, Augmented Vision Inc was founded by Drs. Chunyu Gao and Hong Hua to develop optical see-through eyewear displays based on the freeform optical waveguide technology which is a thin, see-through optical assembly that enables the design of a lightweight eyewear displays that look like conventional glasses and offer a high-quality video display along with unobtrusive see-through vision to the real world.
In September 2011, the company was awarded an Army Phase I SBIR to develop an occlusion-capable optical see-through eyewear display and in April 2012 it was invited for an Army Phase II SBIR proposal submission. In May 2012, the company successfully designed the eyewear display and in June it passed the DCAA auditing for government contracting.
At CES 2011, Vuzix unveiled the Raptyr, a see-through AR glasses prototype which use holographic optics to let the user see a virtual 70-inch screen from a distance of 10-feet. The Raptyr, which have won CES Innovation Award, feature a 6-megapixel camera, a microphone, headphones and a motion tracking system. It could be plugged into a PC, smart phone, or gaming system. Additionally, the lenses can electronically darken to compensate for brighter or darker environments.
On 18 May 2011, Vuzix announced the STAR 1200 a see-through AR-enabled binocular glasses which is aimed for a wide variety of industrial, commercial, defense and some consumer applications. It features a native 16:9 format that offers full color WVGA (852 x 480) which provide a video viewing experience similar to a 60-inch flat panel television viewed from 10-feet along with a 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) motion tracking sensors and a built-in camera for tracking and recognizing the real world. It was released in August 2011 for $4999.
On 13 November 2012, Vuzix announced the Smart Glasses M100. This device features a 16:9 WQVGA (428x240-pixel) resolution projector that projects a 4-inch display as if it were 14 inches away from the user's face. It has an OMAP4430 at 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage and runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, although it can also be hosted on iOS software or other compatible devices. Its camera can shoot 720p HD video and there is a gyroscope, accelerometer and integrated compass for accurate head-tracking features. On the audio side, the M100 has an earpiece and a noise-canceling microphone. Also included are Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and a microSD card slot. The Vuzix M100 is expected to cost under $500 and is scheduled for commercial release by late 2013. The m100 was officially released in December 2012 for $1000: double the originally announced price.
On 3 January 2015 Intel invested $25M into Vuzix in exchange taking a 30% share in the company. This investment by Intel coupled with the technology and processing horsepower they can bring will surely lead to dramatic reduction in product size and increase in processing horsepower.
At D11 Conference 2013, the startup company Atheer Labs unveiled its 3D augmented reality glasses prototype. The prototype included a binocular lens, 3D images support, a rechargeable battery, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, accelerometer, gyro and an IR. User could interact with the device by voice commands and the mounted camera allowed the users to interact naturally with the device with gestures.
On 19 December 2013, Atheer Labs started an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for their augmented reality systems. They raised $214,407 of their $100,000 goal. They offered two flavors of their system: the Atheer Developer Kit and the Atheer One. Both systems were augmented reality transparent eyewear display systems that contained cameras for tracking as well as a depth sensor primarily for tracking of hand gestures. The stand-alone Atheer Developer Kit was priced at $850 while the Atheer One which was intended to be connected to an Android phone or tablet was priced at $500. A SDK was made available to work with the Android OS.
On 27 June 2014 Atheer, after shipping dozens of units, cancelled all remaining pre-orders for their Developer Kit and the Atheer One in a pivot to the enterprise market.
On 5 December 2014, Atheer begins marketing mobile smart glasses for enterprise and industrial applications including oil, medical, construction and other field services. Atheer is shipping the AiR (Augmented interactive Reality) Smart Glasses platform developer kit, the AiR DK2, to select customers. AiR Smart Glasses are mobile 3D augmented reality see-through smart glasses with patented, touch-free gesture control that is designed to improve productivity for those who work in the field and/or with their hands.
The Atheer AiR platform consists of the Atheer AiR Glasses and the Atheer AiR OS based on Android 4.2. Featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, the platform includes binocular lens, 3D imaging support, a rechargeable battery, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, an accelerometer, gyro, magnetometer, an ambient light sensor and IR. External Ports include USB, HDMI Out, DC Power In, an Earphone/Microphone stereo jack and includes internal storage as well as MicroSD support.
On 19 November 2015, Atheer launched the AiR Suite, a turn-key enterprise field worker taskflow management and collaboration platform consisting of AiR Flow, the device application for smart glasses, AiR Hub, the cloud-based console for user management and remote video, and AiR Designer, the GUI taskflow creation and editing tool.
By the end of 2009, Epson began the development of an eyewear display that would deliver a big-screen experience to people on the go. Thus, it was intended to be small, lightweight and comfortable to be convenient for travelers and optical see-through so that viewers could see their surroundings while watching multimedia content. On 9 November 2011, it announced in Japan the Moverio BT-100, a 3D-enabled optical see-through eyewear display which features 0.52-inch displays with 960×540 resolution that give the impression of viewing a 3D virtual 80-inch display from a distance 5 m. It is powered by Android 2.2 and packs Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11b/g/n (direct access to YouTube and a web browser) and microUSB. The Moverio was shipped to Japanese stores on 25 November and was expected to initially sell 10,000 units. In March 2012 Epson launched the Moverio in the United States.
On 6 January 2014, Epson announced the development of the Moverio BT-200 Mobile Viewer. In addition to being 60% lighter, and having prescription inserts, it also introduces motion tracking, a camera, and more powerful (1.2 GHz) CPU. In addition to content consumption, the new Moverio is being promoted for use with full augmented reality.
In December 2012, Meta was founded by Meron Gribetz, based on the work of a Columbia University team that began in 2011. On 17 May 2013, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to manufacture the Meta 1, an augmented reality wearable display that is based on Epson's Moverio BT-100. Meta's outward-facing camera captures gestures allowing users to interact with virtual games, architectural renderings and other 3D objects by using their hands. To get one of the first-generation devices required a pledge of $650 or more to the Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter campaign was successful in raising $194,444, topping its pledged goal of $100,000.
The highly anticipated Meta 1 shipped out around the world in January 2015  after many updates, tweaks and refinements. Meta's system leverages Unity, as the 3D environment, and has put their SDK in the hands of talented hackers and developers at prestigious hackathons in order to see the system in action.
Meta has also announced the Meta Pro, with 40 degree field of view, attached Intel i5 computer, and many other enhancements, with a price of $3,650. The delivery date for the Meta Pro has not yet been announced, but details can be requested at the Meta website.
The Meta website lists Prof. Steve Mann, the father of wearable computing  as its Chief Scientist, alongside Columbia University's Prof. Steven Feiner  as its lead advisor and co-founders CTO Raymond Lo and COO Ben Sand.
In 2012, the Italian company GlassUp was founded by Francesco Giartosio and Gianluigi Tregnaghi to develop and market its augmented reality eyewear display. Initially, the project started in June 2011, when Francesco and his team saw an augmented reality glasses concept video. Following it, the team researched the eyewear display market and in September 2011 it sought and hired Gianluigi Tregnaghi, the biggest field expert in Italy, who developed optical systems for airplane pilots' helmets. In the summer of 2012, the team thought it found the solution that would hit the mark, and patented it.
At CeBIT 2013, the company showcased its project to turn a pair of glasses into a head-mounted secondary display for the smartphone. The prototype device featured a projector that beams images onto the glass panel baked into the right-side lens as well as a yellow-and-black, 320 x 240 resolution display. The company planned to release two versions, one with Bluetooth 4.0 and one with Bluetooth 3.1 to ensure a wide range of compatibility with Android and iOS devices, and aimed to have finished versions ready for the Augmented World Expo in June 2013.
At the same time, the company planned to start Kickstarter campaign to generate the funds necessary for a pre-sale, priced at $399 / €299. It spent two months setting up a company in the US, opening a bank account, an Amazon account, getting a tax number and seeking a local resident. At the end, it came out that Kickstarter does not accept the eyeglasses category anymore. On 9 June 2013 GlassUp started an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds and as of 18 August the campaign has raised $105,641 of its pledged goal of $150,000.
In January 2005, the French company Laster Technologies was founded by a group of experts in optics and image processing at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). The company's patented EnhancedView technology uses a unique optoelectronic device based on a semi-reflective diopter with a mathematically calculated curve enabling the reflection of a virtual collimated image directly into the wearer's field of view. The use of EnhancedView technology, coupled with an OLED micro-screen provides a 40 ° x 30 ° (H x V) field of vision with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels or more. This is equivalent to viewing a floating screen of 90 cm diagonal at a distance of one meter. It is the result of an intensive collaborative development work with the Institut d'Optique and the University of Paris-Sud over several years.
In September 2006, the company won a research grant for the development of a prototype demonstrator for augmented reality in French Museums. It worked on this project with four partners: INRIA, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, the Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University and Naska films. In July 2009, the company presented the augmented reality experience "Observe the Earth in 3D" at the inauguration of the permanent exhibition Explora, "Objective : Earth" at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie. A projected video of Earth globe was placed at the center of a semi-circular table. Visitors are placed around the table and wear Laster glasses which allows them to see the Earth globe and overlay of virtual satellites around the Earth.
In June 2008, Innovega was co-founded by the former MicroVision employees: Randall Sprague, Steve Willey and Jerome Legerton. The company developed the iOptik eyewear display. It comprises a pair of contact lens which refocus polarized light to the pupil and allows the wearer to focus on an image that is as near as 1.25 cm to the eye, thus enabling displays to be built into normal-looking glasses without the bulky optics. In April 2012, the company signed a contract to deliver a fully functioning prototype to the Pentagon’s research laboratory, DARPA. At CES 2013, the company demonstrated a prototype of its eyewear display that features a field of view of 60 degrees or more. It also claimed that a field of view of nearly 120 degrees is already in the works. The first version of Innovega's glasses are designed for military use, but it is planning a consumer version by 2014 or 2015.
At SID 2012, the German institute Fraunhofer COMEDD presented for the first time an evaluation kit of its OLED-based eyewear display which enables the user to test the technology and develop applications The institute successfully developed OLED-on-silicon microchips, which are display and camera at the same time, and can be integrated into eyeglasses with an appropriate optical construction. At the moment the eyewear display can be offered with a bright red shining OLED display, but the scientists of Fraunhofer COMEDD are currently working on the possibility to provide the information in full-color so that people can experience whole film sequences. Fraunhofer COMEDD is working in partnership with Fraunhofer IOSB who is developing the eye-tracking capabilities for the eyewear and Trivisio who is responsible for the eyewear design.
TRIVISIO was founded in 2003. The company develops and produces head-mounted displays. The wireless inertial motion trackers developed by TRIVISIO, are operational in the production for movement control by industrial companies, as well as in the medical field. In partnership with research institutions and companies, the company optimize customize optics, micro-electronics and mechanics. TRIVISIO has thus developed a proprietary technological toolbox.
The Technology Partnership (TTP)
On 10 September 2012, TTP announced that it developed an eyewear that looks like conventional glasses and uses transparent, curved lenses that do not obstruct the wearer's field of view. The technology works by using an embedded low-power, miniature projector optics to project a light at an angle of approximately 45° towards the lens that contains an embedded grating structure to redirect the light into the eye, as well as performing a number of other optical functions such as astigmatic compensation. It also invented a very high speed switchable fast focus lens technology that can be used to create a true 3D experience. The September 2012 prototype can only show a monochrome, 640 x 480 image, not a moving video, but the hardware to do that is expected to be ready for the next model. An electrode mounted at the temple of the eyewear can measure an electronic signal in the muscles to figure out which way the eyes are looking and that is translated into UI. The company is not planning to manufacture its display or eye-tracking technology, but instead hopes to license it to third parties. It is currently in negotiation with a California-based company.
In January 2013, the Japanese company Telepathy was founded by the augmented reality entrepreneur Takahito Iguchi. At SXSW 2013 the company unveiled the Telepathy One, an eyewear display that consists of a small micro projector to create a virtual 5-inch screen that appears to float in front of the wearer's eye and a built-in micro camera. It uses an OS built off Linux and can connect to other devices via Bluetooth. It allows users to receive e-mails, check updates on social networks, and even share whatever scene the user is looking at with his friends. A Consumer version is expected to hit the US before the 2013 Christmas season.
Founded in March 2004, the Taiwanese company Oculon Optoelectronics is a well-experienced optoelectronics company that has been engaged in the design and the development of head-mounted display (HMD) and a series of light-weighted portable display products. At Computex Taipei 2013 the company demonstrated a prototype of its Oculon Smart Glasses, an eyewear display which is expected to compete the Google Glass with better screen, longer battery life and less than half the price. The prototype carries a 640×480-pixel resolution, but the final version will have a 720p display. Images appear translucent, making them easy to see through. It will be offered in two versions – monocular and binocular – while the Google Glass only offers a monocular version. Among Oculon's features will be speech recognition, gesture control and the ability to connect to a Bluetooth control pad for navigation. The company expects to go into mass production of the Oculon by late 2013 and is hoping to hit an MSRP of $500. As an OEM, Oculon will not release the Smart Glasses on its own, but instead will sell it to a variety of vendors who will take the device to market under their own brands. Consumer versions are expected to be released by late 2013.
At MWC 2013, Fujitsu showcased the Laser Head Set (LHS), a headset display that uses a laser to project a high-resolution video onto a clear mirror in front of your eye which bounces it back into the retina. It provides a field of view of 40 degrees and produces a translucent image, letting the user look through the projected image to see his surrounding. It was developed in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and QD Laser Inc. By Mobile World Congress 2014, Fujitsu plans to debut the Laser Eye Wear (LEW), based on the same technology that is condensed into a pair of normal-looking glasses.
On 1 April 2013, an article at Sina Tech reported that the Chinese search giant Baidu is allegedly testing Baidu Eye, a monocular eyewear display which features a miniature LCD display, camera for taking pictures, bone conduction technology, and some sort of facial recognition search. It has been in development for several years by a team under the direction of Baidu's chief product designer Sun Yun-feng. The company intends to develop a wearable device industry standards and to license it to manufacturers. Based on its cloud ecosystem, it plans to launch an application store so developers can create apps for the device. It also cooperation with Qualcomm, to use its latest power control chip to reduce the power consumption and by that to extend the battery life to 12 hours or more. This device is fully functional by voice commands. It was at first thought to be an April Fools' Day joke, but on 3 April its existence was confirmed to Mashable by Baidu's director of international communications, Kaiser Kuo. A working prototype has been built.
Vufine is a California-based company that manufactures a glasses-mounted display. The company launched on Kickstarter on 24 July 2015  and is intended to be a cheaper alternative to the Google glass. It is only a display, lacking an onboard computer. Users can stream HDMI data to the headset.
In May 2011, Microsoft filed patents for an optically see-through eyewear display with augmented reality capabilities. The patent describes how it could augment the wearer's view by using the device. For instance, it could be used at a baseball game to show a player's statistics, provide details of characters in a play, or at an opera house to show the lyrics next to the opera singer as an alternative to displays placed at the side of the stage. It also states that the eyewear display could be operated by a wrist-worn computer, voice-commands or by flicking the eyes to a certain spot. In 2012, a two-year-old 56-page roadmap document by Microsoft appeared on Scribd. It revealed that Microsoft's Innovation Center in Fortaleza, Brazil is developing the code-named Fortaleza, an eyewear display that appears to be Wi-Fi and 4G-enabled and incorporates augmented reality. It also revealed plans to make it capable of syncing with Microsoft's Xbox One and the Kinect. No concrete release date was given, but the document suggests sometime in 2014 at earliest. The document was removed at the request of Covington & Burling LLP, an international law firm that represents Microsoft. The file has since found a home on multiple hosting services and websites, but soon afterwards Microsoft sent takedown notices to sites that were hosting the document, including Dropbox. Ihned.cz, a technology site based in the Czech Republic, received a notice from Alan Radford, Internet Investigator on behalf of Microsoft for hosting the document. In 2014, Microsoft revealed the device, naming it HoloLens. In an 6 October 2015 event Microsoft demonstrated the demo of HoloLens and made its developer edition available at $3000.
In March 2013, the Boston-startup LAFORGE Optical was founded by five former and current students of the Rochester Institute of Technology, with the intention to design and market an eyewear with an embedded heads-up display system. In December 2013, the company launched pre-order sales of its Icis eyewear on the company's official website for $220. This plan was then abandoned for the release of a new pair of eyewear LAFORGE dubbed Shima. These went on sale on the company's official website for $590 under the marketing banner of an alpha/beta product release. Since then there have been multiple delays and a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the actual availability of the glasses.
At Ceatec trade show, Toshiba unveiled the Toshiba Glass, a prototype of pair of glasses with a tiny, lightweight projector which displays an image. Toshiba Glass was jointly created by Yamamoto Kogaku Co. which makes glasses under the Swans brand.
Ashkelon Eyewear Technologies
In November 2013, Ashkelon Eyewear Technologies Ltd was founded by the Israeli celebrity inventor Benny Goldstein, with the intention to develop and bring to market a very low-cost wearable heads-up display. Their first product, the Ashkelon Visor, is launching for around $20 and should arrive at consumers hands somewhere in the middle of 2015. 
- On 17 April 2012, Oakley's CEO Colin Baden stated that the company has been working on a way to project information directly onto lenses since 1997, and has 600 patents related to the technology, many of which apply to optical specifications.
- On 18 June 2012, Canon announced the MR (Mixed Reality) System which simultaneously merges virtual objects with the real world at full scale and in 3D. Unlike the Google Glass, the MR System is aimed for professional use with a price tag for the headset and accompanying system is $125,000, with $25,000 in expected annual maintenance.
- At MWC 2013, the Japanese company Brilliant Service introduced the Viking OS, an operating system for HMD's which was written in Objective-C and relies on gesture control as a primary form of input. It includes a facial recognition system and was demonstrated on a revamp version of Vuzix STAR 1200XL glasses ($4,999) which combined a generic RGB camera and a PMD CamBoard nano depth camera.
- At Maker Faire 2013, the startup company Technical Illusions unveiled castAR augmented reality glasses which are well equipped for an AR experience: infrared LEDs on the surface detect the motion of an interactive infrared wand, and a set of coils at its base are used to detect RFID chip loaded objects placed on top of it; it uses dual projectors at a framerate of 120 Hz and a retroreflective screen providing a 3D image that can be seen from all directions by the user; a camera sitting on top of the prototype glasses is incorporated for position detection, thus the virtual image changes accordingly as a user walks around the CastAR surface.
- The Latvian-based company NeckTec announced the smart necklace form-factor designed to facilitate AR glasses development due to transfer of processor and batteries in the necklace, thus making facial frame lite and elegant while augmenting the power and usage life of the AR device. The smart necklace serves as media player with almost unlimited storage and as Bluetooth headset for smartphone with cozy earphones storage, has patented key elements for AV glasses connection.
Analytics company IHS has estimated that the shipments of smart glasses may rise from just 50,000 units in 2012 to as high as 6.6 million units in 2016. According to a survey of more than 4,600 U.S. adults conducted by Forrester Research, around 12 percent of respondents are willing to wear Google Glass or other similar device if it offers a service that piques their interest. Business Insider's BI Intelligence expects an annual sales of 21 million Google Glass units by 2018.
According to reliable reports, Samsung and Microsoft are expected to develop their own version of Google Glass within six months with a price range of $200 to $500. Samsung has reportedly bought lenses from Lumus, a company based in Israel. Another source says Microsoft is negotiating with Vuzix.
In July 2013, APX Labs founder and CEO Brian Ballard stated that he knows of 25-30 hardware companies who are working on their own versions of smart glasses, some of which APX is working with.
Comparison of various OHMDs technologies
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|Combiner technology||Size||Eye box||FOV||Other||Example|
|Flat combiner 45 degrees||Thick||Medium||Medium||Traditional design||Vuzix, Google Glass|
|Curved combiner||Thick||Large||Large||Classical bug-eye design||Many products (see through and occlusion)|
|Phase conjugate material||Thick||Medium||Medium||Very bulky||OdaLab|
|Buried Fresnel combiner||Thin||Large||Medium||Parasitic diffraction effects||The Technology Partnership (TTP)|
|Cascaded prism/mirror combiner||Variable||Medium to Large||Medium||Louver effects||Lumus, Optinvent|
|Free form TIR combiner||Medium||Large||Medium||Bulky glass combiner||Canon, Verizon & Kopin (see through and occlusion)|
|Diffractive combiner with EPE||Very thin||Very large||Medium||Haze effects, parasitic effects, difficult to replicate||Nokia / Vuzix|
|Holographic waveguide combiner||Very thin||Medium to Large in H||Medium||Requires volume holographic materials||Sony|
|Holographic light guide combiner||Medium||Small in V||Medium||Requires volume holographic materials||Konica Minolta|
|Combo diffuser/contact lens||Thin (glasses)||Very large||Very large||Requires contact lens + glasses||Innovega & EPFL|
|Tapered opaque light guide||Medium||Small||Small||Image can be relocated||Olympus|
- Epiphany Eyewear
- Laster Technologies
- Open Cobalt
- Recon Instruments
- Virtual retinal display
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