Experiencing augmented reality doesn't have to be as easy as holding up a cell phone. Through the years, researchers have dreamed up and constructed hardware that is either totally cool or utterly ridiculous (sometimes both, depending on whom you ask).
The above funglasses from Lumus Optical suggest you can view email, SMS and video games "inconspicuously during meetings."
Because no one would ever question why you're wearing huge black sunglasses indoors.
Needless to say, I'll give it up that there are practical applications for this hardware (exploring a city, viewing Google Maps, etc.). Plus, it's pretty clever:
Lumus' patented, revolutionary Light-guide Optical Element (LOE) [ed. note: 2-3mm thick] comprises a flat, transparent optical substrate that incorporates a set of embedded partially reflecting facets. The upper figure illustrates the LOE function. An optical image, generated by a microdisplay (e.g. LCD, LCoS or OLED), is coupled into the LOE substrate. Trapped by total internal reflection, the image components are guided along the LOE. The image is then expanded and coupled out by a set of partial reflectors for viewing by the user. The LOE provides the viewing experience of a large distant screen: an enlarged, distant image, with a large field-of-view (FoV).
After the jump, check out some other AR projects, old and new, which require you to look less like an iPhone fanboy and more like a cyborg...
[Lumus via MedGadget]
First developed in 2002, this pack was one of four created especially for a game of "Human Pacman", which played out in the streets of Singapore.
Pacman can collect the virtual cookies by walking through them, while Ghosts can "eat" the Pacmen by physically tapping the Pacmen's back. However, Pacmen can collect power-pills which are Bluetooth-embedded boxes hidden in the game area to become Super Pacmen for a short period of time to "eat" the Ghosts in the similar fashion.
We also introduced the role of Helper, who can participate the game through the Internet. The movements of the Pacmen and Ghosts are tracked using sensors and they are linked back to a wireless Local Area Network which is connected to the Internet. Hence, the 3D-graphical version of the game can be rendered in real-time. Helpers can thus watch the game "live" and guide the Pacmen or Ghosts to reach their goal by text communication.
Did I mention it was funded by the military?
Around the same time, students at Carnegie-Melon's ICES were experimenting with a Spot wearable computing device (left) and companion driver interface system, which was comprised of several cams and devices.
You still look like The Borg.
Speaking of which, how could I not mention Steve Mann, author of Cyborg? The dude's troubles boarding airlines are well documented on Boing Boing. But regardless of such petty setbacks, just look at the evolution of that hardware...
Not especially chic, but his look sure has come along way!
Back in 1999, this Wireless Immersive MultiMedia Information System (WIMMIS) was comprised of a Cybertrack head tracker for "orientarion [sic] determination," a Sony Glasstron TM display, a Xybernaut MA 4 computer, and a wireless video link.
All built into a vest that just screams: "I'm a walking Radio Shack!"
As of 2008, this head-mounted, retinal-scanning display weighed just 25 grams. Much lighter and stealthier than earlier incarnations from 2005 — "less than one thousandth of the previous prototype." Compliments of Japanese-based Brother Industries.
Why mess with glasses, goggles and thin-film displays when you can affix said display direct to your eyeball?
That's exactly what researchers at the University of Washington are wondering. And that's why they're developing a bionic contact lens that was unveiled last year. Already, they've tested the lenses on rabbits, which confirms that lab animals really do get to have all the fun.