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Smart Eyeglasses Display Data for Objects You’re Looking At

Stare at a word or an object through these smart eyeglasses and they will call up information about what you’re looking at.

Applications for this new technology developed by German researchers could include a surgeon being able to call up X-ray images while in the process of operating on a patient, or an engineer being able to see the finer specific details on building plans.


Image courtesy Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems

“The data eyeglasses can read from the engineer’s eyes which details he needs to see on the building plans. A CMOS chip with an eye tracker in the microdisplay makes this possible. The eyeglasses are connected to a PDA, display information and respond to commands,” says a statement released by the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) in Dresden.

For car designers, secret agents in the movies and jet fighter pilots, data eyeglasses–also called head-mounted displays, or HMDs for short–are everyday objects. They transport the wearer into virtual worlds or provide the user with data from the real environment, IPMS said.

Birdirectional and Interactive

At present head-mounted display devices can only display information. “We want to make the eyeglasses bidirectional and interactive so that new areas of application can be opened up,” says Michael Scholles, business unit manager at IPMS.

A group of scientists at IPMS is working on a device which incorporates eye-tracking–users can influence the content presented by moving their eyes or fixing on certain points in the image. “Without having to use any other devices to enter instructions, the wearer can display new content, scroll through the menu or shift picture elements.”

Scholles believes that the bidirectional data eyeglasses will yield advantages wherever people need to consult additional information but do not have their hands free to operate a keyboard or mouse.

The researchers have integrated their system’s eye tracker and image reproduction on a chip measuring about three-quarters of an inch square, that is fitted behind the prototype eyeglasses hinge on the wearer’s temple. This makes the device small, light, easy to manufacture and inexpensive, IPMS said.

Images Projected Onto Retina

The image on the microdisplay is projected onto the retina of the user so that it appears to be viewed from a distance of about three feet (one meter). “The image has to outshine the ambient light to ensure that it can be seen clearly against changing and highly contrasting backgrounds. For this reason the research scientists use OLEDs, organic light-emitting diodes, to produce microdisplays of particularly high luminance,” IPMS said.

In industry and in the medical field, the interactive data eyeglasses could enable numerous tasks to be performed more simply, efficiently and precisely, IPMS believes.

“Many scenarios are possible, including patients’ vital functions, MRT and x-ray images for the operating surgeon, construction drawings for erection engineers and installation instructions for service technicians.”

Some users have already tried out conventional head-mounted displays, but the results were not very impressive, IPMS said. In most cases they were found to be too expensive, too heavy, too bulky and not very ergonomic.

“We have now overcome these hurdles,” says Scholles. With his team and colleagues from other Fraunhofer institutes he is already working on the next development stage of the bidirectional eyeglasses.


  1. Johann Lohrmann
    September 1, 2009, 11:32 am

    As an online media producer and researcher, I can see the applications of this technology. I had the wonderful opportunity to view 3D TV at a networking event and I can see the similarities.
    Does anyone know if the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems in Dresden will be testing them again?
    Johann Lohrmann
    Atlanta, GA