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Laser HUD Projected on Retina 325

Ligur writes: "The scoop is at the Seattle P-I: 'This fall, Bothell-based Microvision Inc. plans to give people the same cybernetic experience that once existed only in a screenwriter's imagination. Through a device called Nomad, people will be able to read information from a small, wearable computer that projects an image over their normal vision.'" Looks like they've come a long way in the past three years.
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Laser HUD Projected on Retina

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  • "The device shoots a tiny laser beam that draws patterns onto the retina so that only the wearer sees the images."

    Anyone else worried about having a laser beam blasted at their retina?

    "Hey Mike, let's go hack Fred's laser while he's out at lunch, we'll crank up the laser's output power..." teeheeheeee what a wheeze.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why does this idiotic comment come up EVERY DAMN TIME a story about this is posted?

      Get a clue: They're not using a 1 watt laser. Do you worry about shining a flashlight into your eyes because someone might have "hacked the battery" so it puts out the power of a searchlight?


    • by JonWan ( 456212 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:51PM (#3188495)
      Yeah the product safty people will make them put a warning label on it.

    • Anyone else worried about having a laser beam blasted at their retina?

      Not's far more pleasant than having to wear glasses or contacts!!!

      (yeah, yeah...lasic surgery deals with the cornea...bla, bla, bla)
    • Actually, this isn't such a big problem as you would think. First off, the laser itself is very low power... secondly, the Center for Disease and Radiological Health has guidelines for any lasers that will be accesible to the public when in use, and this includes direct eye-scanning techniques. Just a quick review:

      • Total power must be no greater than 40 uW (micro-Watts... that's .04 mW, compared to 1-5 mW laser pointers)
      • The beam must be continuous and not pulsed
      • The full exposure allowed is some awfully low value, something like .1 mW / cm2
      • If any of the scanning equipment fails (the tiny mirrors that move the laser beam back and forth across your retina), there must be a safety interlock that shuts the beam off
      • The safety interlock must be independant of the control software so a bug in the software doesn't result in a problem
      • The safety interlock must operate within 75% of the mirror settle-time. Once the mirrors stop moving, they take a discrete amount of time to settle on one point. The safety interlock must completely dampen the beam before 75% of this time goes by; if the mirrors settle in 4 picoseconds, the interlock engages in 3

      So, all in all, if they have a CDRH variance (and you have to have one to sell laser equipment), they're pretty safe. These values are all very conservative; the same regulations specify that laser pointers are not allowed to be used for commercial applications within 5 miles of an airport, because of the chance of accidently hitting and airplane and distracting the pilot. I've applied for a variance myself as a laser entertainer, and let me tell you; they're fairly complete in checking on everything... that's why most clubs don't have their laser effects anywhere near their audience... too difficult to get the equipment certified for that.

  • by gmg ( 94371 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:47PM (#3188450) Homepage
    It would be interesting to see how this would be integrated with our current set of home devices. Right now it appears the cost is a bit too much for the average geek.

  • Something I would really want pointing at my eye! I'm sure it's safe, but can you imagine the marketing problems?
    • when companies start paying to broadcast images onto your eye.

      Everytime you see a car... "Microsoft: Where do you want to go today?"

      Everytime you see a bottle... "Isn't it Miller time?"

      Everytime you see your girlfriend... "AOL: It can't get any easier than this."
  • by Software ( 179033 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:48PM (#3188459) Homepage Journal
    The display is a red, transparent computer screen, but, in fact, is no screen at all. The device shoots a tiny laser beam that draws patterns onto the retina so that only the wearer sees the images.
    OK, fine, but how come I can barely see the guy's right eye in the picture []? There's not much point in a transparent screen if the surrounding equipment is not tranparent. Maybe if it was off-axis it would be more useful.

    Still, this does sound like promising technology.

    • Microvision [] (the company responsible) also have a "Nomad []", which has more hardware, but less of it's in the way of your eye. That seems more practical, in that you can see more, but the equipment is more bulky.
    • OK, fine, but how come I can barely see the guy's right eye in the picture []? There's not much point in a transparent screen if the surrounding equipment is not tranparent.

      Hold two fingers in front of one of your eyes. You can "see through them" right? Same principle with this device, which btw, is a prototype.
      • Sure, but you lose your depth perception. Not sure that'd be a Good Thing for people driving or using heavy machinery. The whole point of augmented vision is that you don't lose anything, you just add to what you would ordinarily see.
    • by theonomist ( 442009 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @02:53PM (#3189020) Homepage now -- since the article they linked is dated Monday, June 18, 2001. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick! June of last year!

      See here []. It's already been on Slashdot, even.

      Yeah, the hot news is always on Slashdot, kids.

    • Still, this does sound like promising technology.

      Sure, all technologies *sound* promising, but what have those technologies delivered, other than a society of asocial fat-asses who complain that no one loves them even as they plot out the next Enron scheme?

      It's a brave future these technologists see for us, a place where you don't have to *see* poor people or urban blight or even your fellow fat-asses--from the article:

      "Eventually we will be able to get the resolution so clear and the images will look so real, that you may not be able to tell anymore what is real and what is being created by the computer you're wearing," Evans said.

      Now *that* sounds like the perfect world--your vision enhanced so that all the dirty parts of existance are pushed to the background by buxom anime characters, your surroundings cleanly filtered into one rosy worldview that guarantees a market for Frosted Flakes.

      Where's my soma?

    • OK, fine, but how come I can barely see the guy's right eye in the picture []? There's not much point in a transparent screen if the surrounding equipment is not tranparent. Maybe if it was off-axis it would be more useful.

      Hmm. Couldn't you have a camera on the front of the device and project the field of view the device is obscuring onto the retina, making it invisible?
  • by gtada ( 191158 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:48PM (#3188462)
    The problem that I have with their technology is that it seems to have a very narrow range of focus. Unless you're pretty still, it's out of focus. Unless there is some way to really anchor this unit to your head (like maybe some surgical implants!), I'm not really interested.
  • risks (Score:4, Funny)

    by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:48PM (#3188466) Journal

    Sure, it's all fun and games until airport security starts ripping them off of people at the gates. Then we'll have starry-eyed cyborgs blundering into baggage racks and falling down all over the place :)

    (yes, I feel sorry for the guy who got worked over by customs, but I also find the idea of confused cyborgs running into things very funny. So sue me.)

  • corrective lenses? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) < minus poet> on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:49PM (#3188472) Homepage Journal
    How about my contact lenses? Will they get messed up by this?

    Nothing like a piece of melting plastic in your eye to wake you up. I highly recommend it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...into the laser with your remaining eye.
  • Burn in (Score:5, Funny)

    by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:50PM (#3188480) Homepage
    I hope this HUD doesn't have the same problem as old monocrhome monitors with burn-in. That would suck a lot.

  • It doesnt look like you can see through it. I mean, it covers your entire eye. So while it's cool, you wont be walking around like the terminator any time soon.
  • This is a really cool advane, but I have just a few concerns:

    - Field of view will be limited to the Centre of the Retina, mostly for reading purposes... you can't exactly look over to the far-right of your retina...
    - Some people have weak/damaged retina's, is a laser safe? (I'm not assuming a med laser here...)
    - For people with severe Myopic conditions and the like, how clear will the image be after going through corrective lenses?

    I'd love to try this thing!
    • Field of view will be limited to the Centre of the Retina, mostly for reading purposes... you can't exactly look over to the far-right of your retina. You're right, most of us aren't good at reading text in our peripheral vision. I would presume that the Nomad doesn't bother trying to locate the direction of your gaze and keep a stable image with respect to your retina, but project a steady image onto the back wall of your eye that you can explore with your fovea (the center of your field of vision).

      Some people have weak/damaged retina's, is a laser safe?

      A laser is as safe as any other light source, presuming the intensity is low enough. The article clearly states that this uses a very low-power diode laser.

      I presume it's at least as safe as radial keratotoomy, which has gained wide acceptance despite the lack of long term test results...

      For people with severe Myopic conditions and the like, how clear will the image be after going through corrective lenses?

      Well, since a laser beam is collimated, and the area of the field is small, you would probably see little effect other than a shift of the entire projected display... something you could adjust for by positioning the headpiece. At worst, there may be some pincusion or keystoning; both can be compensated for in software. The real challenge to overcome is astigmatism.

      Also, the article says that uncorrected myopia doesn't interfere with perception of the display, so one could wear the projector inside one's glasses, between the lens and the eye.

      Or just go get some contacts. I just picked up six pair of flex wear disposables for $44.

  • by Ali Jenab ( 565034 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:52PM (#3188503)
    And my eye doctor had a lot to say about this new development:
    Are they crazy???
    He went on to explain that everybody knows how sensitive human eyes are, until some new technology comes out that is "so cool" that everybody wants to try it. Witness retinal scanning: retina scanners have been known to damage sensitive (read: decaying 80-year-old) eyes and result in a temporary loss or blurriness of vision. He also explained that there are many subtle ways that these sorts of devices can break that would cause unspeakable damage to one's eyes. "Hiccups" in power supplies, jarring, and even everyday resistor failure could have dire consequences. My eye doctor believes that anything that interacts closely with a user's eyes should be classified as medical equipment and held to the same high, fault-tolerant standards as dialysis machines, heary defiberators, and breathing tents. And, as somebody concerned about the bodily integrity concerns [] involving human-computer integration, I just have to agree with him.


    • He went on to explain that everybody knows how sensitive human eyes are...

      Except my opthamologist - the brightest light I've ever seen was at his office. First he dilated my pupils, then he shined a bazillion watt light into my eyes. Jeez! I saw blue blobs for a week after that!

    • Although there is only one beam scanning the retina to produce an image, I personally have reason to be wary... as cool as it sounds.

      I have had 4 eye surgeries, and don't want to mess anything up more than it already is.

      Extreme caution and care should definitely be taken in producing/maintaining these things. You don't want to lose your vision..
    • by Fixer ( 35500 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @02:12PM (#3188692) Homepage Journal
      Generally I agree with the notion of classifying such tech as a medical device, but I would point out that there HAS to be some safe wattage level for a laser, even if that wattage is lower than the amount of ambient light reaching your eyes on a sunny day. So, as long as the laser is at or below this level, what's the big deal?

      Also, a diode laser of sufficently low power would be self-limiting in the case of regulator failure.. they tend to blow if their currents go even slightly beyond their ratings. So, take a page from the nuclear weapons designers: Build such systems with a 'weakest link' mentality.. if any portion of the circuit dies, use components of such low quality that every other one in the chain bites it as well.

      It's painful to lose a five thousand dollar device like that, but it's better than going blind, no?

      • I used to have a TV and its vertical yoke died one day. When messing with the potentiometers in the back to try to adjust the picture back to a working state, I quickly discovered that the electron beam that scans the inside of the picture tube is extremely strong and produces a very bright spot on the screen.

        When you think about it, though, the phenomenon makes a lot of sense. The beam is as bright as (average pixel brightness) * (total pixels on the screen). If you concentrate the brightness of the entire screen on one point, that point is going to be very bright and may well be damaged.

        And that brings us to the problem here. If you burn the phosper off a little dot on your TV's picture tube, it's not the end of the world - you can just buy a new TV. But if you burn a spot in your retina, it's there forever unless you can get an eye transplant. If you used such a low-power laser or electron beam that this wouldn't happen, your picture would be too dim to see.

        Mr. Uptime

      • You would think there would be some, fairly HIGH safe wattage.

        When I've been to the doctor to get my eyes checked he takes a freakin BRIGHT light and shines it around the inside of my eyes. I feel like I'm going to go blind for the rest of my life.

        I've asked the doctor why it isn't dangerous when it seems so bright and he says it takes a lot more power to hurt your eyes. Maybe a discrete source like a laser would require the same power as this penlight, but man that thing is bright.
  • It's Not Done Yet (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 )
    I think the important thing to remember is that they are shooting for something really usable in 5 years.

    I would think this a bit optimistic if it weren't for how rapidly they have gotten this far.

    All the posts about shortcomings miss the point. They know about those shortcoming but they may have many of them fixed in a much shorter timespan than anyone would have imagined even a few years ago.

    The potential is astounding.

    • And they've actually been working on this tech since like 1992 or so... They put out a press release roughly every six to twelve months, and never deliver a product.
      • Yeah, that's Tom Furness. This idea has been kicking around for quite a while now. His hype far exceeds what he can deliver. There's a biography [] of him and his HIT lab. (Published in 1999, out of print.) It's a sad story; hype, failure, cutbacks, business failures. And not for lack of money; the stuff didn't work.

        I'd like to see more focused-at-infinity displays. [] These produce a similar optical effect on the desktop, and they work. A focused-at-infinity display looks like a window, not a surface. They're used in flight simulators, but seldom seen anywhere else, because the optics are bulky. A few location-based entertainment systems use the things. You need a high-resolution display, at least HDTV, because you're spreading the pixels out over a large field of view. But those are now available.

  • Microvision (Score:2, Funny)

    by sulli ( 195030 )
    Wouldn't that mean your vision fades in and out if you watch a DVD? No thanks.
  • by pizen ( 178182 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:53PM (#3188516)
    Combine this with a wearable computer to project the naked bodies of porn stars over people we see every day. Now, instead of undressing the girl in marketing with my eyes I can undress her with my cyborg-eye.
    • Combine this with a wearable computer to project the naked bodies of porn stars over people we see every day. Now, instead of undressing the girl in marketing with my eyes I can undress her with my cyborg-eye.

      Why don't you talk to her and try to undress her FOR REAL.
  • This sounds a lot like several science fiction shows/movies. Isn't this how the Total Recall device worked? and I'm sure there were others.

    Seems like every time I think an idea on a TV show is good, someone goes and invents it for real... I'm starting to think the only sci-fi ideas that I won't see in my lifetime are the ones that are actuall physically impossible.
    • Isn't this how the Total Recall device worked?

      Recall (or rather Rekall, to be true to the movie/book), worked by implanting the memories of the event directly into your head. This is much simpler; it's basically a CRT that uses your retina as the screen. Think of this as the way the Terminator saw the world, only not in red monocolor.

      Which is not to say that the potential isn't amazing. In 10 years these things'll probably be about as cumbersome and expensive as ordinary glasses and have fantastic color and resolution. Combined with portable computing power and/or wireless networking and you have the knowledge of the world at your command everywhere you go.

      Seems like every time I think an idea on a TV show is good, someone goes and invents it for real... I'm starting to think the only sci-fi ideas that I won't see in my lifetime are the ones that are actuall physically impossible.

      Heck, why stop there? How many people a hundred years ago could have imagined the stuff we take for granted today? We're much better than our ancestors at imagining the changes tomorrow may bring, but we're certain to be surprised nontheless.

  • Retinal damage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:58PM (#3188558) Homepage Journal
    I would be interested to see if they have performed any studies (short term/long term) on the possibility of retinal damage due to projecting lasers directly on the retina. Anyone?

    There's lots of stuff that folks are doing to their eyes these days that has no long term data on. For example, Viagra (yes, that Viagra) works because it is a phosphodiesterase inhibitor. We need phosphodiesterase for normal pigment turnover in the photoreceptors of the eyes and lots of evidence indicates photoreceptor loss in various models of phosphodiesterase genetic knock outs. Additionally, if you inhibit the phosphodiesterase of photoreceptors even short term, it leads to the build up of cyclic-GMP which results in increased Na+ permeability and continued deploarization of the photoreceptor membrane potential. The end result is that the photoreceptor no longer responds to light.

    I wonder if folks are trading impotency for blindness. By projecting lasers on retinas are we trading more information for blindness?

    On the other hand, projecting laser images onto the retina could certainly benefit those that suffer from various forms of vision loss. Perhaps by mapping out where folks have lost vision in their retinas, it may be possible to project the outside world onto the working portions of retina or magnify certain things onto retinas as well.
    • Re:Retinal damage (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Moofie ( 22272 )
      A photon's a photon, right? If it's too powerful, it's gonna burn stuff. If it's not, it won't. What's special about laser light that causes your concern?
      • A photon's a photon, right? If it's too powerful, it's gonna burn stuff. If it's not, it won't. What's special about laser light that causes your concern?

        Lasers are coherent highly focused photons. Any photons projecting on small areas of the retina result in a greatly increased power density and an increase in the probability or chance of damage to the retina.
        • No, lasers are a coherent, highly focused BEAM of photons. An individual photon can't be focused or unfocused, coherent or incoherent - it's only in context of other photons that it matters.

          And in actuality, you want "collimated", rather than "focused", I think - collimated meaning that over a long distance, the beam won't spread out much. I think they're used interchangably in optics, but focused in this sense could imply being from the eye's sense, which is a totally different thing (whether or not the beam actually focuses to a point on the retina or not).

          Over a short distance, the difference between a laser and a normal beam of light is minimal, at least in the collimated sense: if a normal beam of light doesn't spread out more than the width of a molecule or so over the path length of the retina, it doesn't matter that a laser doesn't diffuse at all.

          As for the coherency bit, I don't know - the molecules in the eye aren't sensitive to the phase of the photon, are they? If they were, then you should be able to see a difference between differently polarized light (which you can't, as far as I know).

          I don't think this is going to cause any more problems than reading a monitor does (which it does, I agree) and possibly much less. I think monitors (especially LCDs) cause damage mainly from straining to focus text all the time. In cases where you aren't using this kind of a setup to project text, but images, I don't think it's going to be an issue.

          The easiest way for them to tell if this is going to be damaging (which they did already) is to calculate out the light flux through the retina and compare it to safety standards. What they say is that it's far below it. Like I said, coherency (I don't think) is going to affect this, and collimation is already taken into account in the light flux (flux = energy/unit area, so higher collimation = lower area = higher flux).

          (Note that I'm not sure if I spelled 'collimation' right through here, so someone correct me if I'm wrong).
        • OK, each photon is exactly the same "size", by definition. The only difference between two photons is their wavelength.

          More photons on a small area might be a Bad Thing. That's the "too powerful" part. Individual photons are not focused. Individual photons are the same in "regular" light and laser light. The only thing with laser light is that the photons are all oscillating in the same direction. So, therefore, laser light is not intrinsically more dangerous than regular light. Right?

          Yes, some lasers can damage your eyes. So can Q-Beams. So can the sun. What is INHERENTLY dangerous about lasers? That's what I'd like to know.
      • Re:Retinal damage (Score:4, Interesting)

        by zmooc ( 33175 ) <.ten.coomz. .ta. .coomz.> on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @02:22PM (#3188776) Homepage
        Just a thought... laserlight usually consists of one single frequency of light. So your eyes will on avg get a lot more light in that frequency... furthermore I think you can only really concentrate (i.e. read) on what's in the center of your eye so retina-projection is probably only usefull if projected there (that is: look at an object and get additional information). So the center of the eye will get a rather large dose of light in a certain frequency. I don't know if that's harmfull or not, but that's at least one thing to think about.

        Probably it's best to use multi-colored lasers which project a color which contrasts a lot with the "original" color so you won't need a lot of light to see it.

        DISCLAIMER: I'm a total moron regarding this sort of stuff.

        But imagine the possibilities of this stuff combined with face-recognition, barcode-scanners, reading stuff (you can see the sums of rows...even search paper documents for words). Hell. Just look at your bluetooth-controlled fan, shout IT'S FUCKING HOT IN HERE and it'll go to max. Look at someone's face which is in your db and see all the memos you've made about this person. Look at your clock on the wall to see a list of meetings. Look at your nevermind:> Damn. Can't wait.

        • Re:Retinal damage (Score:3, Interesting)

          by zmooc ( 33175 )
          Even better... spectral analysis so you can see what material an object consists of. Built-in compass, built-in GPS with the new 3D navigation system Intel built. Now we all need a long-distance (like 100m or so) radio device that transmits data about us which we want to be public (nickname, hetero/homo/bi/pedo/whateversexual, .plan (.plan files will offcourse be very popular to put ads in:P). Then you can put this data on the HUD above the person. Stores etc. can also use these devices and project their best offers:P And at places where you have to stand in a queue one can offer something to read as an extra service!:)
    • Re:Retinal damage (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @02:10PM (#3188672)
      Thanks for posting an informed, INSIGHTFUL comment about this technology - no mean feat here on Slashdot. I'm a neuroscience grad student - and I love it when interesting science stories make it here on Slashdot - but I HATE the inevitable idiotic posting that follows, already we have many posts with the same unthinking, knee-jerk responses:

      --Whoa! Hope this won't fry my eyes!
      --Hope someone doesn't "hack" this thing..;

      and so forth. Just because something is a laser doesn't mean it will shoot evil death rays into our eyes! Again, it's the crowd of "Boy! I can hack Perl/C/C++, that MUST mean I'm smart about non-computer science topics too!" that ruins any discussion here, by flooding the postings with crap - even the JOKE posts are repeated! Literally, EVERY retinal projection story here gets the same 100+ retinal barbecuing comments!

      Informed comments like yours give me some small measure of hope that there can be an interesting discussion about the development and effects of this research, but I'm too much of a pessimist to really believe that.

      With regards to the topic at hand - I don't see this as being great for EVERYONE - ie an elderly person with bad vision and sensitive retinas probably wouldn't want to wear this for a long time, but I see little long-term damage for normal eyes. I for one would love to try this out in a second! More tests should be done, and knowing the people that do this kind of reseach, before any real approval or public use of this tech, such studies will have to be done.

      Kevin Christie
      Neuroscience Program
      University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
      • Thanks for posting an informed, INSIGHTFUL comment about this technology - no mean feat here on Slashdot. I'm a neuroscience grad student - and I love it when interesting science stories make it here on Slashdot - but I HATE the inevitable idiotic posting that follows,

        Thanks. The noise on Slashdot has certainly gone up over time, and it was to be expected if Slashdot was successful. (It appears to be) Moderation does help quite a bit. Try surfing at -1 and you'll see what I mean.

        • Unfortunately along with the trash, plenty of qaulity posts get modded to -1 becuase prejudice doesn't care for the truth. The rating system is a collosal failure overall. Id rather wade through the crud than miss a great post becuase little johnny didn't like having his hacker buddy dissed.

      • Re:Retinal damage (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kmellis ( 442405 )
        Kevin, As a neuroscientist, then perhaps you can address the concern that I have.

        Wasn't the previous poster that talked about "burn in" possibly more correct than people are giving him credit for? It seems to me that users would find it desirable to have an image remain fixed within their field of vision; and consequently some receptors will be relatively continuously stimulated at a given frequency and amplitude over a long period of time, while others (nearby) will not. From what little I know about neurology, I'd expect some aberrant behavior -- of the receptors themselves and stuff further down the line -- to result.

        Wouldn't this type of fixed, constant and long-term stimulation of discrete areas be unprecedented biologically?

    • IIRC back when they first announced this technology, there was a quote on their web site about the human eye being able to sustain a continuous beam for 8 hours without taking any sort of damage. It wasn't clear from their wording, but I'm guessing that means *much* more than 8 hours of continuous use (since the beam itself is never continuously on the same spot).
    • Re:Retinal damage (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tgibbs ( 83782 )
      I worry a lot less about this than about drugs. A drug potentially can act with every single molecule in your body. But basically, a photon is a photon, your eyes are designed to handle photons. So long as they stay well below the UV frequencies (which can break bonds and produce actual chemical changes), you should be pretty safe. Even if you manage to bleach out all your visual pigment, it should eventually recover. I suppose that if you pumped enough photons into the retina, you could cook it from purely thermal effects, but that would take quite a bit of power.
    • IIRC, the most dangerous light is in the "invisible" range, such as ultraviolet... If a laser produces an image using only visible light, the damage could not be much worse than that of staring at a TV set.
    • The CDRH (Center of Diseases and Radiological Health) has guidelines on what is perfectly safe for this kind of thing; see my previous post at 593 []

      For more info, BackStage at LaserFX ( has tons of information and technical documents on laser safety, and includes a couple whitepapers about this very subject.
  • Transparent? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dimer0 ( 461593 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:58PM (#3188560)
    Uh, I'd rather have depth perception than my stock quotes superimposed on my field of vision.. That damn thing covers that guys entire right eye!!!
    • Actually, I believe the eventual plan is to use a tiny mirror on an arm to project the images. I even heard tell that someone was working on a pair of eyeglasses with a fiber-optic feed to a center-mounted mirror... all this is hearsay and press release/vapor ware, but I'm pretty sure the bulky prototype will be refined some.
  • Need more (Score:4, Funny)

    by pizen ( 178182 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:58PM (#3188562)
    This needs to be able to identify what I'm looking at so that I can get more information on the subject. Things like "That tree is a Larch" or "That guy is the perfect size for kicking his ass and taking his clothes".
  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:59PM (#3188569)
    Every person walking down the street gets rendered to your eyes as Ali Larter.

    Don't like the color or your car - write a mod so you see it as you like.

    Change fonts on signs/books/etc... as you wish with OCR.
  • by chrism2k ( 31528 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:59PM (#3188571)

    An interesting technology. Long-term it looks like it has a lot of potential. But for the time being, it looks like MicroOptical ( is a better choice for wearables. They're less obtrusive and they can already do color. And, while they're still not cheap, they are cheaper.

    I definitely want to see power-consumption and resolution specs for Nomad, though!

    Anybody else bothered by the fact that the article kept describing this as a holographic display?

    • The significance of this is not the size, price or color/mono. Its HOW it is done. This particular one shoots the image straight to the retina, versus hanging an LCD in front of the eye, which seems to be how microoptical is doing it (their website seemed a touch sparse on technical info). I believe microvision does sell the lcd style display at a much cheaper price, in color and to very high resolutions (800x600?).

      All this is more or less from memory, so I could be wrong!

  • Help for the blind (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kredal ( 566494 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @02:06PM (#3188629) Homepage Journal
    The article said that people who are legally blind (most likely because their eyes don't focus correctly) can see the laser image pasted on their retinas.

    Attach this device to a head-mounted camera (even a cheap web-cam would work) and you could pretty much restore vision, much like hearing aids work. I would love to see these things helping the average person, as well as professionals who need the extra edge (doctors, astronauts, etc).
  • It's been in Serious Sam [] several years ago?

    What do you mean Serious Sam is not real life? They're not using UNREAL engine!
  • Hiro Protagonist (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wire Tap ( 61370 ) <frisina AT atlanticbb DOT net> on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @02:11PM (#3188678)
    This device reminds me of the display Hiro uses in Neal Stephemson's "Snow Crash." No monitor, per se, but instead, a laser paints his eye with the image of the metaverse. Same idea, it seems. I like it (my 21 inch monitors are so bulky!), but I agree with an earlier post that these devices should be held under the same kind of scrutiny that medical eqipment is. The innovation is great (and it's about time!) but it _must_ be safe.
    • This device reminds me of the display Hiro uses in Neal Stephemson's "Snow Crash." No monitor, per se, but instead, a laser paints his eye with the image of the metaverse.
      If I'm reading the book right (about 1/3 through it), in Snow Crash, the lasers painted images on the (transparent? translucent?) goggles Hiro and others wore. Lots safer! (Three lasers for colored images.)
  • ...called the Spectrum []. 24 bit svga 800*600, configurable as a stereoscopic binocular display. Sounds like quake through this thing would be incredible.
  • Imagine having a beowulf cluster of these shooting at one of your eyes!!
    Wait a second...
    Ok. Maybe that's not such a good idea after all.
  • Studies? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GSloop ( 165220 ) <networkguru@sloop. n e t> on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @02:25PM (#3188795) Homepage
    I know that several others have mentioned it, but here's a bit different take.

    We all know that when you release DNA modified foods (IE Monsanto et al) you only have to show that no one can prove it causes catestrophic damage. (I know, I'm simplifiying it alot, but that's the general standing.) Since there aren't any really well funded opponents to the technology, then it pretty much sails through. The general rule seems to be...If it's for business, we don't want to hold this up, cause it might cost someone a lot of money. If it might harm someone - well, the market will fix things...

    Which brings me to another issue - why do the "market driven" proponents hate the tort/legal system so much? When the system works right, the "market" determines what works by trial and error! So, if you're one of the unfortunate few to pick the wrong one, you're injured (loss of funds, health etc.) and others learn from your unfortunate mistake. It's the ones injured by the "market" process that need the legal system the most, and also the ones that deserve it the most too! So, if you love the market, then you really should love the legal system too. It's the only way a true market can be fair - or do you not care that those who you "learned" from are uncompensated Guinea Pigs?

    Back to the issue at hand - what serious tests are the FDA going to require for something like this? How long will the test run? I'd hate to use a product like this, and find out in ten years that my right eye was irreparably damaged, and in my later years of life I'd loose vision from that eye! I'd bet that the requirements for testing and use are quite a bit less than we'd all assume. Lastly, I'd bet that any company that releases such a device will put the manufacturer and the seller in a shell corp, to limit the liability losses. They won't hold many assets, and will pass revenue and such to the parent. 15 years from now, provided there is some problem, good luck suing the company - they just paid out huge bonuses to the execs and went out of business.

    If you think the above is poppy-cock, go do some research about the IUD Dalcon Shield. The manufacturer (who was really regulated by the FDA) got a horrible product into the market, and didn't care when it irreparably damaged many many women - many couldn't have children after their problems!

    The idea's cool and all, but the real killers are in the details. How much testing is done. Who peer reviews it. How often must they report problems to the FDA, and what problems do they have to report? These and many other details will significantly impact the safety of the device. Finally, what legal liability the company might risk, will also impact how informal they are with the testing and implimentation.

    I wouldn't be using the product myself for any period of time, until I understood the impacts of the following, and knew where the company stood.

    • You ask why market proponents hate the tort system so much. The reason is that the tort system is malfunctioning. You need a reasonably functioning tort system for a market to even work well. If you have one, business that operate as you imagine all businesses operate would be stopped. The current system is used to extort billions of dollars from companies on junk science claims (look at the breast implant shakedown...err well whatever). Those lawsuits generated lots of money for lawyers, a little money for some "victims", put companies out of business that had done something wrong, and caused companies to stop making important medical supplies (and I don't mean implants) because they were afraid the same junk science attack would be used on them! And yet the National Research Council (research arm of National Academies) found that there was *no* scientific evidence of harm. There are many, many examples of these. Another example is the shareholder class action suit. Junk science suits have been used in the areas of Agent Orange (harmless as far as anyone can tell, but as a Vietnam Vet I qualify for all sorts of free medical care as a result), asbestos (harm exaggerated - only people with large exposures to a certain kind suffer), PCB's (harmless), etc. The ones currently reaping the biggest rewards are in the area of asbestos - with many companies with only the most indirect responsibility to the most implausible harm are being driven bankrupt daily. The next target is GEEK FOOD ! These same class action lawyers are going to sue (name your favorite fast food place) on your behalf. You will get a dollar (if you fill out enough paperwork) and they will get a billion. Yeah.... I know... sort of off topic... but the poster *did* ask.
      • PCB's harmless?

        They clearly do damage. I don't actually know what they do to humans, but they certainly damage some animals!

        Sure, the tort system does some odd things sometimes. But that's the price of making a market economy work. Frankly, I think that the tort system works lots better than people think. But, since you always hear about the horror stories, you don't think it works at all.

        Think McDonalds and the famous coffee case. From what I can tell, McDonalds was serving Coffee at like 150-160 degrees F. No one can drink it anywhere near that hot, so there's simply reason to serve it that hot. They were repeatedly warned. They then scalded a lady, who sued to recover a portion of her medical costs. McDonalds flat refused. When the jury heard all this, they really didn't like McD's and screwed them. - But what we hear, is some stupid lady spilled hot coffee and burned herself, and then won x millions for her stupidity. It isn't a true reflection of the case!

        Asbestos, probably was known by the manufactureres to cause serious problems. But they tried to supress any evidence that there was any problem. When you get to court, and seem to be hiding things, and trying your best to keep the good guy down, the jury suspects something. Then, you may lose even though you shouldn't. That's too bad, but you get what you give. If you're evasive and sharp in all your dealings, you're going to get it back someday.

        I don't think we really know about Agent Orange. There hasn't been any really clear studies that came to any real conclusion that I'm aware of...but that said, not knowing, and knowing that it's not ARE NOT THE SAME!

        I would agree that the lawyers in class action suits generally abuse the class. But what to do? I don't generally see companies being victimized by the suits. I much more often see the victims being victimized. Lets take a class action suit. The Iomega suit. I a portion of the class get to take $25 off the price of my next purchase - of a crappy Iomega product. The company really didn't suffer all that much from their crap drives. The lawers made out, and I didn't get much. (The coupon is valid on Wednesdays from 8:00-8:03a only if you sacrifice the chicken before the goat etc.)

        Anyway, I don't see that many cases of suits gone awry, at least in terms of percentages. Sure there are some horror stories, but most are reasonable. I would venture to say, that many people who should be able to utilize the courts are not able to, because of massive disparities in economic status.

        So, would you rather the government regulate in a big way, or accept the court system to help the market do the regulation.

        You can't have it both ways - A market system, instead of government, AND no court system.

        Government OR Market with recourse in the courts.

        • The asbestos suits alone are big enough to significantly reduce the GDP as a result of their impact on companies.

          PCB's are the levels anyone flaps about are harmless.

          Agent Orange has had OODLES of clear studies. I have read some. But there wen't enough at the time that the lawyers plundered Dow Chemical over the alleged damage it caused.

          And remember, when companies are victimized, so are consumers and stockholders (mostly middle class people through their pension funds and 401Ks).

          My argument is not to do away with the tort system. It is to fix it! It used to work. Now it doesn't. For one thing, the lawyers have *bought* the Democratic Party (the lawyers got many billions from the smoking settlement alone) and use it to prevent any meaningful reform.

          An efficient market economy requires a well functioning justice system, among other things. Bad guys need to be detered by tort law (and government action if they are very, very bad). But our current system too often benefits NOBODY but the lawyers (as you have demonstrated by your Iomega example).

          In addition to making a mockery of science, the system is basically a big lottery. If a lawyer wins a big class action suit, he/she makes hundreds of millions of dollars. If an individual wins a big suit (say, the McDonalds suit), he or she gets a big windfall. This is just plain wrong, and damaging.

          Furthermore, a system rendering judgements in science related areas (health torts are where the really, really big money is at) needs to use valid science. The Supreme Court has finally recognized this, and has instituted measures to at least partly correct it (fought down the line by tort lawyers, of course). All you have to do is look at the impact of this on medical economics (drug prices, physician malpractice costs) to understand the huge tax that we all pay, to the lawyers, for the poor job they are doing of keeping companies honest!

  • Until technology like this gets to be the size and profile of a standard pair of sunglasses I don't think that it is very practical. Having used a head-mounted display before, I know that the display is heavier than a pair of glasses and it seems awkward to move your head and even interact with other people.

    But, once the device becomes small enough that it does not interfere with daily life, I could see tremendous potential for a device like this.

    I would love to be able to go to a sporting event and be able to look at players and be instantly provided stats, in an overlay fashion similar to what we see on television today.

    Very good job so far... Just needs a little bit more work to be practical.
  • Great... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Mike1024 ( 184871 )
    Maybe that HUD could help my conversation skills...

    Question: Can you help me with this?

    Possible Answers (Projected on retina):
    Go Away
    Fuck You
    Fuck You, Asshole

    Me: Fuck you, Asshole.

    Yes... I can see this working...

  • by Erastus ( 520136 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @03:09PM (#3189124)
    This isn't all that great. Consider some of the other augmented reality displays that are currently available and don't require mounting on more than a pair of glasses.

    You might check out the displays currently offered through MicroOptical [] for less than $5k

    Then, check out some really neat covert display hacks by Don Papp []

  • I'd be reluctant to put a meter long, 500 kg cylinder in front of my eye. Especially when it's mission is to destroy that which is not perfect.
  • I see a reference here and there to Gibson's books, but the technique, as I recall it, was first described in Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash".

    Always worth a good re-read.
  • Vertigo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jhines0042 ( 184217 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @03:55PM (#3189455) Journal
    I'm not concerned about this burning my eye or what not, but I'm curious how much Vertigo this will instill in people.

    Try this experiment.

    1) With both eyes open tilt your head to the left (so that your ear is almost on your shoulder)
    2) Ask yourself this question (silently): "Which way is up?"
    3) Slowly tilt your head to the right all the while pondering about which way is up.

    This is of course a function of the inner ear and gravity working properly.

    Now imagine a moving picture screen with lines of text projected over your normal view of the world. I'm going to assume here that they do not change the orientation of the text to always be "up" relative to gravity but to be "up" relative to the device that is projecting it. Would this not cause vertigo in some people?

    I know that some people get motion sick due to vertigo caused by reading a book (or a laptop) while traveling in a car or a plane. Could this cause the same kind of issues? Could it cause them while walking?

  • by didjit ( 34494 )
    Hey, you can wipe the dust off a monitor, but what do I do with these damn floaters?
  • The Windows blue screen of death burned into my retinas for life.
  • I am acquanted Thor Osborn (who, I believe, is no longer with Microvision) and have tried out the demo unit. It really works, although the thought of a laser beam shining on your retina seems a little counter-intuitive. I have also met Tom Furness and it is clear Tom is involved in lots of VR related stuff, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    The model I tried was red only. Last I heard they were working hard on an RGB system. The kicker is that everything in one of these units can be reduced to solid state electronics: laser diodes, MEM mirrors, driver chips, CPU & memory. This is important because Moores law could drive down the cost of these things pretty quickly.

    Jack William Bell

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford