Brother Industries Develops Head-mountable Retinal Scanning Display

Apr 11, 2008
Takuya Otani, Nikkei Electronics
Small and light enough to be mounted on eyeglass frame
Small and light enough to be mounted on eyeglass frame
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Exemplary vision: The image looks as though it is superimposed on the actual scenery (magazine).
Exemplary vision: The image looks as though it is superimposed on the actual scenery (magazine).
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New MEMS module for light scanning
New MEMS module for light scanning
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Light source box: The reduction in size is intended to integrate the box with the main unit.
Light source box: The reduction in size is intended to integrate the box with the main unit.
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Example of commercialized product: The main unit, mounted on a pair of eyeglasses, has a built-in light source, light scanning and eyepiece modules.
Example of commercialized product: The main unit, mounted on a pair of eyeglasses, has a built-in light source, light scanning and eyepiece modules.
[ If it clicks, the expanded picture will open ]

Brother Industries Ltd developed an eyeglass-shaped retinal scanning display.

The main unit installed on the eyeglass frame measures about 20cc and weighs about 25g. Compared with the prototype unveiled for the first time at the Aichi Expo (Exposition of Global Harmony) in 2005, the size and the weight of the latest model are significantly reduced, in particular, to less than 1/1000.

The retinal scanning display irradiates low-intensity light on the retina and scans it with the light at a high speed. The user perceives the afterimage of the light scanned on the retina as an image. In other words, the retinal scanning display is like a projector that uses the retina as the "screen."

In contrast to the pervasive head-mounted display (HMD) using an LCD panel and so on, the retinal scanning display provides an unobstructed vision. The image can be seen in the actual scenery in an overlapping manner.

New MEMS mirror module developed

The retinal scanning display is mainly composed of three modules, ie light source, light scanning and eyepiece modules. The main unit, whose size and weight is reduce to less than 1/1000, includes the light scanning and eyepiece modules. The company achieved a tremendous reduction in size and weight by newly developing these two modules.

The development of a new mirror module based on the MEMS technology resulted in a smaller light scanning module. The MEMS mirror module measures 12 x 8 x 2mm. The mirror with a diameter of about 1mm used in the MEMS module rotates at a high speed while changing its angle to scan the light from the light source.

The optical rotation angle of the mirror is approximately 20°. The mirror module is driven at a drive frequency of about 30kHz by a piezoelectric element.

In the existing prototype, a modified version of the polygon mirror designed for laser printers is used as a light scanning module. The polygon mirror measures about 80 x 80 x 50mm.

Furthermore, the combination of aspherical lenses resulted in a smaller eyepiece module.

Integration of separate light source module

The light source module is separated from the main unit equipped with the light scanning and eyepiece modules. In the latest prototype, the light source module is connected to the main unit via a fiber optic cable.

The light source module uses laser light beams in three colors, red (R), green (G) and blue (B). Semiconductor laser is used to generate the R and B light beams, while solid laser light is used for the G light. Because the G light is generated from the infrared light by the second-harmonic generation (SHG), the light source box is as big as a cardboard box.

The company continues to focus on the size reduction of the light source so that the light source module can be incorporated in the main unit equipped with the light scanning and eyepiece modules.

"The challenge is to reduce the size of the G laser light source," the company said.

Commercialization in fiscal 2010

Brother intends to commercialize the retinal scanning display in fiscal 2010 at the earliest. In this instance, the company plans to incorporate the light source module in the main unit with the size equivalent to that of the latest prototype's main unit.

The power source and the interface circuitry are provided in a compact unit separately from the main unit. The company expects to employ the setup where the video signal is transmitted to the unit via radio communication, memory card, etc.

By leveraging the ability to provide an unobstructed view, the retinal scanning display is expected to be used as an operation monitor, for example. Specifically, it may be used when an operator performs maintenance work on the server while checking a circuit diagram, or when a doctor performs an operation while looking at the necessary information.

The company is also expecting other applications for general users, such as enjoying looking at images on trains, etc.