[CES] Sony Aims to Launch AR Glasses in 2014

2014/01/11 17:00
Tadashi Nezu, Nikkei Electronics

Sony exhibited a head-mounted display (HMD) supporting augmented reality (AR) and capable of superimposing characters and images on the user's view deep in its booth at 2014 International CES.

Sony did not introduce the HMD in the press conference or keynote lecture. It is a so-called binocular, optical see-through smart glasses.

"We are planning to commercialize it in one or two years," the company said. "But we want to commercialize it within 2014 if we can."

Sony attached a holographic film that it has been developing to the glass of the HMD. The video displayed on a prototype had a brightness of 1,000cd/m2 or higher, and the thickness of its lens was only 1mm. The transmittance of the glass part was 90%.

The prototype was made to let visitors experience the advantages of the binocular, optical see-through HMD and defined as a "concept model." Therefore, it had some limitations in terms of shape and functions. For example, the prototype was not equipped with a rechargeable battery or temples and had to be held by hand. But when Sony explained the details of the HMD to me, I thought it was very promising.

Players data displayed in soccer match

In the booth, when a visitor watched a soccer game displayed on a large screen, players' names, etc, were shown in the lower side of the view. The type of displayed information changed depending on scene. The soccer match had been recorded in advance.

Sony said it wants to add the following functions to the HMD when it is commercialized though the company said that they are under consideration and subject to change.

The largest impact will be made by a function that detects the direction of the line of sight. If a product featuring this function is released within 2014, it will probably be the world's first such product, the company said. It seemed that the function will be used to change displayed information in accordance with the direction of the user's line of sight.

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For wireless data transmission, Sony employed Bluetooth technology. A smartphone can be connected to the HMD and used as a remote. Also, the company is considering a Bluetooth-connected dedicated remote. It will not add wireless LAN capability to the HMD at first because it requires a large amount of power. The HMD can be controlled not only by a remote but by voice. But it will not support gesture inputs.

At first, the HMD will probably be able to display only SD (standard-definition) video. Though the prototype displayed monochrome (green) video, the product will be able to display full-color video using red and blue colors in addition to the green color. The display device and light source of the HMD will be an LCD panel and LEDs, respectively. And it will come with a camera that takes images of the real world.

Though the color of the prototype was white, Sony is considering releasing the product in two colors: white and black. Furthermore, one of the glasses might become detachable so that the HMD can also be used as a monocular type.

Head-tracking function added to HMD equipped with OLED panel

In the booth, Sony also showed an HMD product that uses an OLED panel as a display device. It was not an optical see-through HMD.

Sony attached a motion sensor module to the HMD to realize a "head-tracking function," which detects the movements of the user's head, enabling to switch videos by moving the head. Though a video of town streets was displayed in the booth, this function can probably be used for gaming, too.