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Displays Technology

Demo of Prototype Virtual Retinal Head Mounted Display 93

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the could-use-a-few-lasers dept.
muterobert writes with an article about a new head mounted virtual retinal display (technology last covered ages ago). The folks over at Road to VR took a look at an engineering prototype; from the article: "The Avegant HMD uses a virtual retinal projection display consisting of a single LED light source and an array of micro-mirrors. This differs from normal screens in that with a VRD there is no actual screen to look at. Instead, a virtual image (in the optical sense) is drawn directly onto your retina. . ... 'At one point I was looking at a sea turtle in shallow coral waters. Sunlight was beaming down from the surface and illuminating the turtle's shell in a spectacular way — it was one of the most vivid and natural things I've ever seen on any display. The scene before me looked incredibly real, even though the field of view is not at immersive levels.'"
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Demo of Prototype Virtual Retinal Head Mounted Display

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  • pretty epic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xicor (2738029) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @12:51PM (#45413795)
    i think this might completely overwhelm the occulus rift. the fact that it can be adjusted to your eyesight is pretty awesome as well.
    • by Isarian (929683)

      I don't think it'll overwhelm the OR, they're not directly competing technologies. As stated OR is for creating immersive worlds with high FOV, and Avegant is for consuming standard media.

      • Re:pretty epic (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Xicor (2738029) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @01:25PM (#45414203)
        the avegant technology could easily be scaled to a high FoV... the guy said that in the interview. also, being how it is, it would be a much more immersive technology than the rift. eventually they WILL directly compete.
        • I have to agree. They will be competitors and it looks like right now, taken at face value, Avegant could win.

          Oculus (at least in public) keeps pushing away from consoles while Avegant is wanting to be neutral and work on any media source. They were demonstrating it on a PS3. That's a huge product volume right there.

          With projecting on the retina, people who need glasses don't need them. Oculus has to accommodate and allow space for them in their design.

          Oculus is directly dependent on available scre
          • by Xicor (2738029)
            plus it is much closer to true virtual reality that we are looking for. anyone can mount a screen on your head, but not many ppl can put a screen directly in your mind.
    • by Zerth (26112)
      They are a bit late to the party. The CastAR kickstarter [kickstarter.com] is finishing tomorrow and will be shipping next year, a few months before the consumer version of the Oculus Rift.
      • Totally different. Anyone using the CastAR has to hang up or lay down a reflective screen for it to work. Different markets and different applications.
        • by CityZen (464761)

          You didn't catch the part where you can attach a "screen" directly to the goggles to achieve VR.

    • I was thinking about this. Surely the Occulus Rift has lenses, because your eye has a tough time accommodating to objects very near by. The Wikipedia page states that the OR "development kit also includes interchangeable lenses that will allow for simple dioptric correction." So if it does involve lenses then isn't working the same way as this new device? i.e. you could call the OR a "retinal head mounted display", because it contains optics that project an image of the display onto your retina. Thus, the d
      • by Xicor (2738029)
        the difference is that this has no display, it sends light directly to your eyes. the OR has a screen. projected onto the screen is whatever is in the game. your eyes then see the screen and project it onto the retina. this completely cuts out the screen. because it cuts out the screen, your eyes do not get strained from seeing bright lights in close proximity to your eyes, but instead you 'see' the image as it is coming out of the game.
        • the difference is that this has no display, it sends light directly to your eyes. the OR has a screen. projected onto the screen is whatever is in the game. your eyes then see the screen and project it onto the retina. this completely cuts out the screen. because it cuts out the screen, your eyes do not get strained from seeing bright lights in close proximity to your eyes, but instead you 'see' the image as it is coming out of the game.

          But that's not true: it *does* have a screen. The screen is composed of the micro-mirror array and the RGB LED that illuminates it. That's the equivalent of a screen: if you look at one of those you will see an image. This new device forms an image of the mirror array on your retina. The OR, if I understand how it works, forms an image of an LCD display on your retina. So what's the difference? In one case you're using reflected light and in other transmitted. But in both cases you're projecting a nearby d

          • by Xicor (2738029)
            thats like saying that everything in reality is an led screen because it is reflecting light into your eyes... the thing is, with this technology, they could send whatever light they want to send to your retina, it doesnt have to be a screen... it doesnt even have to be rectangular. they could even put a camera on it and send a modified real world image to your eyes for AR games.
            • thats like saying that everything in reality is an led screen because it is reflecting light into your eyes... the thing is, with this technology, they could send whatever light they want to send to your retina, it doesnt have to be a screen... it doesnt even have to be rectangular. they could even put a camera on it and send a modified real world image to your eyes for AR games.

              I think we're talking cross-purposes. LED displays have the illumination behind it and works by gating transmission (not reflecting). The DLP chip, on the other hand, is a small screen that works by reflection. Here is how: http://www.dlp.com/technology/how-dlp-works/ [dlp.com] It is, by every definition of the word, a screen. The main difference between the chip and an LCD display is that the DLP chip needs to be projected onto a surface in order to be useful. Otherwise, it meets the definition of a screen. I don't

  • Do want... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mythosaz (572040) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @12:53PM (#45413807)

    I've avoided "monitors on eyeglasses" for a while, feeling the technology still a bit weak, but damn am I ready to just turn on my direct-to-eye virtual system.

    We're turning the corner, kids. I can't wait to see what's down the block.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      We're turning the corner, kids. I can't wait to see what's down the block.

      Assuming, of course, you can still see. ;-)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's the micromirror device. Duh. There is no fundamental optical difference between this, Google Glass, and Oculus Rift. The only differences are the size of the physical component that is the screen (very small in the case of Glass, medium in this case, much larger in the case of Oculus Rift) and the optics used for the light path (from trivial in the Rift to more complex in this case and in Glass) and thus also the apparent size of the screen to the wearer.

      Retinal "projection" is just a fancy term for "m

      • Not sure what your beef is, soldier.

        It has 2 million micromirrors. Also, though this is in your sense a "screen" -- kind of -- your eye is not trying to focus on a thing a couple of inches in front of it -- the light can, apparently, seem as if it is coming from way otout there, hence little or no extra muscle strain trying to adjust your eyeball's roundness for extra close objects.

        • It now occurs to me your sense of depth perception might have two components: the normal binocular part, and a supplementary muscle feedback from the single-eye adjustments for distance.

          Hence this would be a much superior experience to dual LCDs, which would drive conflict in your depth sensations -- binocular telling you it's way out there, eye muscle strain telling you it's right in your face.

          Assuming, of course, their device really compensates for that by duplicating rays as if from way out there.

          • by Sarius64 (880298)
            The uplifting thought is that a personalization feature could eliminate glasses while using this tech. One wonders if direct retina connection could follow soon using the concentration of this virtual image into a comprised pulse set. Sure, cure blindness, but also artificially correct the huge portion of the population with color deficiencies.
            • by rts008 (812749)

              Fascinating idea you have there....mind if I play with it?

              What if you could, while doing your color correction, also add other functions as well: lens focus corrections, strabismus correction, etc.?

              Eliminate the need for corrective lenses, mitigating 'colour blindness', the ability to project useful overlays (maps and similar), and still be able to be plugged into your media device as per the stated use FTFA.
              *nerdgasm!* That would be awesomely cool, IMHO!

              The tech involved in all of this subject is way out o

          • by Carnildo (712617)

            Depth perception [wikipedia.org] has over a dozen components, of which stereopsis (your "normal binocular part") is one of the weaker. People have trouble with 3D in movie theaters (and will probably have trouble with the Oculus Rift) because two of the stronger components (accommodation and convergence) are giving very different depth signals from stereopsis. This technology has the potential to be accommodation- and convergence-neutral, meaning the strongest depth signal comes from stereopsis.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The Oculus Rift makes the light seem to come from infinity too. That's just optics. Your eyes are focused at infinity with the Rift, even though the screen is just a few centimeters from your face. That's what the lenses do - otherwise you wouldn't need them (except nobody can focus their eyes at 3cm). Glass, meanwhile, is designed to present a virtual screen 2.5m away from the viewer. This is, again, just optics. Given appropriate optics, you can make any screen, large or small, appear like any other scree

          • by mythosaz (572040)

            There is absolutely no fundamental difference between this and other existing VR technologies as far as what it appears like to the eye or how the image is projected.

            Yeah, this it so totally lame.

          • No screen, bucky. The image gets drawn on your retina.
      • by mythosaz (572040)

        Retinal "projection" is just a fancy term for "making it look to your eye like there's a screen in front of it". There's no magic.

        Just projecting images into my eyeball that (in time) will be indistinguishable from actual sight?

        Sounds pretty goddamned magic to me.

    • Dead pixels on your retina when the mirror mechanism stalls and causes burnout....

  • Less deeply cool if the mirror control software locks up and you burn a line/spot into your retina.

    Trying, plasma TV style, to run noise/wipes material through it to reduce retina burn-in would not be fun.

    On the other hand, nice to see another step towards the Snow Crash universe. Just need a depleted uranium hypervelocity railgun and people will finally start listening to Reason.

    • Interesting name for a gun, Reason...

    • Re:Retina burn (Score:4, Informative)

      by baKanale (830108) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @01:27PM (#45414241)

      Well, you could always blink, or just close your eyes.

    • by Thud457 (234763)
      great, so now I'll have the following burned into my retina:

      possible response:
      yes/no
      or what?
      go away
      please come back later
      fuck you, asshole

    • by CityZen (464761)

      While the video offers lots of BS, the possibility of retinal burn is probably zero:
      1) They use an LED, not a laser diode.
      2) The light from the LED is spread over a DMD (digital micro-mirror device); it is not a line/dot.
      I'd imagine the worst that you'd see if something locked up is a solid color virtual screen.

    • Less deeply cool if the mirror control software locks up and you burn a line/spot into your retina.

      There won't be enough light to do that. It's a low power LED not a laser. Even if it was powered by a laser, though, the display locking up couldn't lead to eye problems: it's not raster scanning, so the light from the source is spread over the whole mirror array. The device projects the micromirror array onto your retina, so a locked display would simply produce a static image and the position of the image on the retina would change when you move your eye.

      • There are laser systems out there (AFAIK only for military applications) - see Microvision Systems. I don't think they use micromirrors, rather they use a single scanning mirror, but I don't know for sure. I'm not sure how the micromirrors are used - is each one fixed, and the laser scanning across? That's basically a fancy Fresnel lens. Or is each micromirror used as a shutter, analogous to the LightValve projectors? In that case the laser output is first expanded via a lens, so the maximum product of

        • I'm not sure how the micromirrors are used - is each one fixed, and the laser scanning across?

          It's this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Light_Processing [wikipedia.org] As you say: expand beam via a lens or two to fill the mirror array then project the array onto your surface of choice with another lens. Scanning across the retina sounds like a non-starter, pointless, and dangerous. For what it's worth: I've built a microscope which works via a pair of scan mirrors (galvanometer-based) and a dangerous IR laser. I generally operate it at 256x256 and get frame rates of 5 to 6 FPS. You can get up to about 40 FP

          • My brother worked for MicroVision Systems back in the 1990s - I'm almost certain they were scanning one (monochrome) or three (RGB) laser diodes. These were for head-up displays on some military flight hardware - $400K each. I think DLPs were not technically capable at that time. The product was based on work done at U Washington (IIRC) in the late 1980s, about the same time as DLPs were being developed. I'm too lazy to find out what they were using back then though, so I could be way off.

            • Followup: from This [microvision.com] it appears that MVS is now (always was?) using a MEMS scanner - basically a DLP. So I think I'll stand corrected. :) But this also makes me wonder if the topic of this thread is going to have to deal with the MVS patent portfolio.

              • No, I take it back. MVS is definitely scanning the lasers. The output of the three laser diodes is modulated, then merged into one beam, then run through the MEMS scanner. So the beam is scanned across the retina.

  • Instead, a virtual image (in the optical sense) is drawn directly onto your retina

    Gee, what could possibly go wrong with that?

    Well, someone else can try that technology. Once it's been in use for a decade or so I might think about it.

    In the meantime, I am not willing to be the guinea pig for something like this. I've no interest in going blind for the latest shiny toy.

    • by liamevo (1358257)

      Images are drawn onto your retina every waking second of your life.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Images are drawn onto your retina every waking second of your life.

        No, images arrive at our retina through means the human body has been using for thousands of years.

        Having a piece of technology draw it directly onto your retina is different. And anybody who has ever seen screen burn-in on a monitor will know why it's different.

        Maybe, in the future when this is well tested and proven (not assumed) to pose no risks. But in the mean time, I'm not letting someone's science experiment attempt to directly draw

        • Basically, they are shining three LEDs at you and moving where the light from those LEDs land. Ostensibly, laser is supposed to be usable safely in this sort of application as well, but this company steered away from even that.

          So this isn't pointing something that is even particularly high powered or coherent at your retina, mostly just sidestepping the screendoor effect because the light path is being manipulated in a manner that isn't as discrete as an array of OLEDs accomplishing the same thing (the lat

          • by Guspaz (556486)

            They're not moving where the light lands. They're shining fixed coloured LEDs at a DLP chip, which is reflecting the light into your eye. This is basically just a microprojector shining into your eye. Instead of a colour wheel, they alternate between each coloured LED.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @01:32PM (#45414303) Homepage

          It sounds to me like you're worried that the developers understand the technology as little as you do.

          No, images arrive at our retina through means the human body has been using for thousands of years.

          Having a piece of technology draw it directly onto your retina is different. And anybody who has ever seen screen burn-in on a monitor will know why it's different.

          It's no different at all though. In everyday natural means, light passes through the eyeball to arrive at the retina. In this display, it also passes through the eyeball to arrive at the retina. Naturally, our pupils adjust to allow a comfortable amount of light through. That doesn't change here, either - the pupil can still adjust to suit the viewer's preference.

          If too much natural light gets through the pupil, we instinctively blink or squint to avoid burning. That only fails when the viewer intentionally keeps their eyes open (such as kids staring at the sun), when too much energy gets through in the time it takes to execute the blink (such as powerful lasers), or when the energy being absorbed is outside the range of human perception (IR or UV damage).

          Fortunately, we actually have a pretty good idea of how much energy is required to burn the retina, and we can easily make LEDs that stay under that threshold. Since the wavelength of an LED is uniform, there's very little risk of any IR or UV damage, as well.

          The biggest hazard to this thing is that some idiot might try to wear it while walking, and be hit by a car. That proves that walking is horribly dangerous compared to safer alternatives like being inside the car, even though feet are the locomotive means the human body has been using for thousands of years.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            Hey, like I said ... you want it, run wild.

            I don't want it, and I don't as yet see any reason to take on faith the claims that, in theory, it's perfectly safe.

            My eyes, however, will not be the ones to prove that assertion. What you do with your eyes is your problem.

            • ...I don't as yet see any reason to take on faith the claims that, in theory, it's perfectly safe.

              Science: It works, bitches.

          • by mmell (832646)
            Just remember - if I brought 60Hz 110V electrical delivery to our government for approval as a new technology, I doubt very seriously that anybody on Earth would ever see so much as an electric socket or light switch installed within the next twenty years (if ever). I mean, that stuff's dangerous. What guarantee is there that it won't leak out of the walls and start electrocuting elephants?

            Don't even get me started on aspirin. Herr Bayer wouldn't even have a starter on his hands there.

            • by jcochran (309950)

              Indeed. And in fact, most people are using a technology right now that if it were to be introduced for the first time in today's safety climate would be rejected due to bad design and safety issues. That technology being the common light bulb socket. Think about it. Bare metal contacts that can be easily touched. If the bulb breaks, removal of the base being a hazardous activity (even more so if the power is left on). And in fact, the polarized two prong plugs and outlets you now find were developed as a me

              • Not to mention those ubiquitous four-wheeled vehicles that burn extremely flammable and poisonous petrochemicals, and move at speeds several times as fast as the fastest animal alive - and are built using materials refined in mile-long fiery furnaces or cooked out of more petrochemicals! Did you know that the of intelligence to momentum of that vehicle plus its herder is lower than almost any animal?

                When these vehicles were first introduced, laws in some places required they be preceded by a person carryin

        • Images are drawn onto your retina every waking second of your life.

          No, images arrive at our retina through means the human body has been using for thousands of years.

          No, the poster you're responding to was correct. As far as your eye is concerned this is optically identical to normal visual conditions. If it wasn't, you wouldn't be able to see an image with this device.

          "Images" do not "arrive" at your retina as you say. Instead, mostly parallel light rays from a surface/object arrives at the lens and, if the conditions are correct, an image is formed onto the retina. All this device is doing is projecting a micro-mirror array onto your retina. So long as the light lev

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            As far as your eye is concerned this is optically identical to normal visual conditions

            Fine. You buy one. You wear it several hours per day for several years. You be the one to find out if what they're saying is true, or if there are defects in the technology.

            Me, I tend to distrust the "oh, it's perfectly safe until we see evidence to the contrary" type things.

            You can say all you want it's safe. But until I see long-term usage studies, I'm going on the assumption that taking the word of the one who stan

            • I absolutely get and share your distrust of big pharma, but I think this case is different. Notice I'm not saying the display is safe because the manufacturer said so. In fact, I didn't notice anything regarding safety in the article (although I didn't read the whole thing). I'm not taking anything on faith from the manufacturer, I'm saying it's safe based on first principles and basic optics.

              Optically this is essentially the same as normal vision or using a telescope or a microscope. The device likely use

          • by Reapy (688651)

            Stop trying to speak sense to the technophobe. Them thar LAZER BEAMS FROM TEH SCARRRY MACHINE IS GOWNA BLOW MY EYEBALLS UP! He is probably out telling someone to get off his lawn anyway.

          • by Sarius64 (880298)
            We drive cars with explosive-level gasoline stored just waiting for some idiot to decide that NOW is the perfect time to cause a 20+ car pile-up. Statistically around 100% more people killed by car accidents than murders every year. I guess light levels don't look so dangerous.
    • by Herve5 (879674)

      Don't worry. You have already lost much more eyesight due to the small-factor car headlights you cross every night.
      Fashion says headlights should be smaller, because this is nicer. So, the same amount of light gets out from a twice or four times smaller area.
      Mind you, this same energy also lands on a four times smaller area on your retina.
      You are already burnt, just because nobody thought about headlight size (there are laws on the total power, but not on the surface).
      See, you don't need ultramodern retina

      • by Megane (129182)

        That's nothing. Try being behind modern sedans while driving in a high-seat vehicle like an SUV. Those curved rear windows at 45 degree or shallower angles are able to reflect the summer sun (and there's a lot of it in Texas in the summer), mostly when going southbound or toward the sun. Sure, it's not quite as bright as looking directly into the sun, but it's still a real pain.

        Even someone leaving his brights on at night isn't that bad, because he's coming from the other direction and will pass you very s

        • If it bugs you that much you should invest in a pair of polarized sunglasses. They are perfect for reducing the glare you describe. They also reduce the glare from water quite well.
          • by Megane (129182)
            I'm going to guess that you don't wear glasses, or you would unserstand that for those of us who do, it's either crappy clip-ons or expensive prescription sunglasses.
            • I do wear glasses. I'm a cheap bastard so I generally buy from a place that sells an eye exam, regular glasses, and sunglasses for $99 if you can live with the frames they offer. If you pick nicer frames the price goes up, I usually get out of there for $150. I bought a pair of prescription polarized sunglasses years ago for $200 and I still use them, I treat them tenderly always keeping them in a hard case when I'm not wearing them. When I'm staring into bright water or road having an out of date prescrip
    • This thing doesn't use a single beam; this is not at all like building an image with a laser at very high intensity to compensate for scanning over a large area. This is like a DLP projector, using many beams that are either on or off. So: the light source will be of relatively low intensity, and it's not like a malfunction (or even a hack) is going to steer all beams onto the same spot in your eye, burning a hole.
    • A system much like this has been in use in military applications since the mid-1990s - see Micro Vision Systems. I don't recall if they use micromirrors but I think not.

  • It was on some show. It was distributed as a game involving getting pink Frisbee-like objects into purple articulating horns which emanated from holes in plane which extended off into the distance. Seems like it might be quite addictive.

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @01:42PM (#45414457)

    ...because this doesn't look at all like the laser retinal scanners from 10-15 years ago. And that's a good thing.

    I got to try one of the laser retinal scanners at SIGGRAPH ages ago. I was pretty excited, because they promised to dodge the corrective-lenses issue -- in effect, it's as though you're stopping the eye down to a microscopic aperture, which means focus and aberration issues become arbitrarily small. The problem, though, was diffraction artifacts, and they were overwhelming -- there were big, heavily-fringed blobs at fixed positions in the image, and you couldn't make them go away.

    Laser technology has come a long way since then, but it doesn't matter. As far as I know, there's nothing that technology can do to overcome this fundamental flaw.

  • Surely you don't want any *artificial* light that those other HMDs offer.

    (My BS meter was pegging out while watching that video.)

  • It's not made clear in the article, but this looks identical in principle to a conventional digital projector (i.e. powerpoint and home cinema). It's a rather daft article in places; e.g. of course the device has pixels. They're just not RGB triplets. The micro-mirrors must surely be these sorts of things: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_micromirror_device [wikipedia.org] which are a standard DLP part: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Light_Processing [wikipedia.org] Instead of a white screen, they're projecting onto the retina d
  • Let's see if we can clear up a few things. Imagine looking at your monitor.

    The pixel in the upper left corner is emitting a hemisphere of light. Or rather, it's emitting a bunch of rays of light that spread out in a hemisphere. Under ideal circumstances, it's the same color and intensity for any of those rays, though we know from experience that it tapers off and sometimes changes color as you see it from greater angles. But for most of the "straight on" angles, they're about the same.

    A subset of that h

  • by k31bang (672440) <`amontoya' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @10:48PM (#45419413) Homepage

    The Phrase "shut up and take my money" was made for this technology.

The F-15 Eagle: If it's up, we'll shoot it down. If it's down, we'll blow it up. -- A McDonnel-Douglas ad from a few years ago

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