Microsoft files patent for reality smart glasses

Microsoft have filed a patent for augmented smart glasses that could seriously challenge their rival Google’s similar technology of Project Glass. The Microsoft patent suggests that these new glasses could relay information, such as sports statistics or musical lyrics, onto the lens, but still allow the wearer to view through the glass.

The glasses would work by the user attaching them to a wrist worn computer. Several problems have arisen during the design of such devices, as in previous prototypes, the lens of the glasses did not allow the user to see through it. It is thought that this new patent particularly targets the transparency of the lens.

Work on such digital glasses is not new as Google are already planning to release details of their Project Glass to developers early next year and then follow with a release to consumers in 2014.

These new devices have come about as it was noted that entertainment organisers often provided screens showing information that enhanced the audience’s enjoyment of their events.

However, to view this additional information, users had to turn their head away from the action – for example looking at the scoreboard at a baseball game, or translated lyrics at the side of the stage at an opera.

By donning a pair of smart glasses, Microsoft suggest that you would avoid the risk of missing a key moment. It would also be possible to see effects that were otherwise reserved for people watching on TV – for example a computer-drawn line superimposed over an American Football pitch showing the minimum 10-yard distance a team needs to advance the ball.

The patent suggests the key to making this work would be to vary the transparency of the glasses lens. The glasses would not only be used in relation to sporting events, as you could have character traits shown of players in a theatre production, or lyrics could be displayed next to an opera singer.

“[It would be] capable of generating display elements on various portions of a user’s display while remaining portions of the head mounted display are transparent to allow the user to continue to view events or occurrences within the live event,” it says. “Other alternatives allow the display to become completely opaque, in order for the display to provide, for example, a display of a video such as an instant replay of the live event.”

A wrist-worn computer could be used to operate the device, or alternatively it could be operated via voice-commands or eye movements to a certain spot. The devices are expected to be used to enhance the viewers enjoyment of whatever genre of entertainment they are viewing.

It is thought that the majority of the actual processing work would be carried out by the remote computer so that the device is kept as small and slimline as possible.

There would need to be a large array of sensors however, that would have to be built into the glasses, including a microphone, video camera, gyroscope, eye gaze-trackers, infra-red detector and magnetometer as well as wi-fi and/or bluetooth connectivity – to provide all the necessary functions.

Nitin Bhas, senior analyst at Juniper research told the BBC that in his opinion it would not surprise him if Microsoft released the smart glasses over the coming years. “We think smart glasses and other head-worn displays will be the next major form-factor for computing with adoption by consumers beginning around late-2014 to 2017,” he added. “The devices will help integrate technology into human life, making things like augmented reality more seamless than it is on smartphones at present.

Compared to other devices we think the adoption rate will be low and price points high in the medium-term, but they will catch on eventually.”

Source and pictures: BBC News