This head-up display uses lasers to project 3D graphics out into the world around you, and it could be the future of automotive GPS systems.
At the 2011 Augmented Reality Expo, we got a chance to check out the first prototype of a three dimensional volumetric head-up display designed for your car. "Volumetric" means that this display has a depth component: it's not just able to display things in 3D, it can actually make stuff look like it's way off down the road, which comes in handy when there's something way off down the road that you need to know about.
So for example, if you've used a GPS system while you're driving, you're probably used to seeing an arrow or something pop up on the screen telling you that you've got a mile to go before you need to make a turn. Using this new system, you'd actually see an arrow appear a mile down the road, showing you exactly where to go. With this kind of capability, instead of relying on discrete arrows, it's possible to just generate a "virtual cable" that hangs above the road to lead you to your destination:
It's not just that this system is able to do all of this fancy 3D projection; it somehow manages to do it all on your existing windshield. It doesn't need special glass or anything (the screen in the pic is a development prototype), it just works by using lasers to bounce light off of the inside of your windshield towards your eyes. And the 3D effect is no stereoscopic trick: you don't need annoying glasses to see it and you can move your head around without shattering the illusion. It can do full color (although the demo we saw was just projecting red), and if you want, it can cover your entire windshield including the passenger side.
The key to all of this is going to be how well the display can integrate all the sources of information that your car has available. GPS is the obvious first step, but as cars get smarter, the display can get smarter too. Many cars have collision avoidance sensors of various kinds, and the display could be used to provide visual warnings when (say) someone is in your blind spot. And slightly further into the future, as short range vehicle-to-vehicle communications become more prevalent, the display could let you know when another car is coming around a blind corner, even if you can't see it at all. There are lots of possibilities here.
As with any fancy new technology involving lasers price is a big concern, but somewhat incredibly, MVS California (the company behind all this) says that within a few years they hope that their system will be available as an option in consumer cars for a premium "comparable to existing navigation systems."
Via Inland Mobile