We were at the Augmented World Expo here in Santa Clara yesterday, checking out some of the newest virtual reality and augmented reality hardware. This itty bitty OLED microdisplay system from Fraunhofer caught our eye, primarily because it's still in the prototype stage, which automatically means that it must be awesome somehow. And, as it turns out, it is awesome, in a few different ways.
Here's what's amazing about this display:
- It's tiny, with a diagonal size of just half an inch.
- It's very high resolution (for that size, at at least), at 640x480
- It'll do full 3D with no problems
- It'll be available in full OLED color, at an eye-blistering maximum brightness of over 1000 cd/m2
Not amazed yet? Try this on for size:
- It's transparent, so you can use it for augmented reality applications
- It includes an infrared band that you can't see, but that can penetrate your skin
- The display is also a camera, meaning that it can see you looking at it
Laptop showing the display's view of your eyeball, and how it tracks your gaze to tell where on the display you're looking.
That last thing is really the kicker for this technology: since the display can watch your eyeballs, it can see where you're looking, and provide visual feedback based on where your eyes are pointing. The demo that I tried at Fraunhofer's booth was a simple world map, and when you looked at the edges of the map, it would scroll that way. Technologies like Tobii provide a similar experience, but they rely on external hardware which isn't necessarily feasible for a wearable AR system.
Fraunhofer, unfortunately, isn't interested in making any consumer hardware. They just make cool stuff like this, show it off at places like the Augmented World Expo, and hope that someone will license what they've come up with and turn it into a commercial product. So, what you're looking at here is really the next generation of hardware for systems like Google Glass, or maybe even the generation after that, where the hardware itself provides a level of interactivity that would otherwise be impossible.