Brother Industries, Ltd. has just announced that next year it plans to produce Retinal Imaging Display (RID) glasses that augment regular vision. Just as in the popular Terminator movies, these glasses could project supplemental information into your field of vision to augment your normal vision. Although Brother and most of the blogosphere is hyping that the product will be ready by 2010, I am skeptical. Even if they do appear in 2010, will the quality and form factor of the glasses be reasonable? I doubt it. Augmented reality sent directly into our retinas is certainly on the horizon, and its going to be awesome...but the technology still needs several more years of innovation before it is ready to break out. In the meantime, we can wet our imaginations with what is to come.
So how do the RID glasses work anyway? For those that want to get more depth on how the whole RID thing works, a decent place to start seems to be available from the US Navy. Sadly the information from Brother is pretty thin, only adding to my skepticism of their product plan. The glasses are equipped with an attachment piece that literally projects light onto your retina. The light source for the eyepiece comes from a hard drive sized laser generator that you would have to carry on your hip or somewhere on your body. Brother claims that the images are transparent enough that they don't interfere with the real visual field of what you are seeing.
It sounds great in theory, but does it really work as advertised and without complications? What about the images causing headaches due to temporal distortion, image stabilization, and other factors? How is the augmented information correlated in realtime with the real images streaming into your field of vision? Will the images being projected into your retina be of high enough resolution to see writing and other informative data crisply? All of these issues and more will need to be addressed before Brother is able to offer a viable product.
Don't get me wrong - I certainly commend Brother for working to develop such a neat product and I am excited to see where they can go with this. I just think we need to set reasonable expectations for the timeline of their product development. The Hub has reviewed several augmented reality applications that already exist on iphones and elsewhere and even a contact lens concept, and now Brother introduces us to the possibility of wearable awesomeness. The real and virtual worlds continue to collide, but it will still be several years before this collision starts to make some really big waves. In the meantime maybe its time to watch that Terminator movie again - I'm pretty sure augmented reality is not the only part of our future that the movie foretells...