New Augmented Reality Headset May Create Entirely Virtual World
What if you could navigate a city through virtual breadcrumbs that were left for you? What if you could share a virtual meal with a loved one who was miles away? What if you could see the name of a new acquaintance floating next to them? Those are the dreams of Andrew Maimone, a PhD student at University of North Carolina who is developing a new kind of augmented reality headset.
[Credit: Andrew Maimone]
Maimone was dissatisfied with what is available to consumers, which he deems "little more than a small window into the virtual place." Typical augmented reality glasses use a whole variety of beam splitters, waveguides, reflectors, and other optics to relay an image to the eye. This creates bulk, and the resulting glasses have a limited filed of view - typically about 40 degrees.
Thus, the Pinlight Display was born. Together with three other researchers, Maimone created an augmented reality display that is light and compact and offers a wide field of view. This display is created from an array of bright dots of light (pinlight) and a transparent display panel. "A transparent display panel is placed between the pinlights and the eye to modulate the light and form the perceived image," says Maimone. "Since the light rays that hit each display pixel come from the same direction, they appear in focus without the use of lenses." And early pinlight prototypes have field views of 100 degrees or more.
Problems still remain, of course. The prototype has low resolution and image quality, and the researchers must now figure out how to implement other features such as tracking, networking, and low latency rendering without adding bulk to the product.
But Maimone is confident that his goals will be accomplished: "I'd love to have all of these things happen effortlessly in my glasses, and when they do, I think we'll start to see computer graphics more as an integral part of our visual system rather that something that exists only on external screens."