Sunday, January 15, 2006

Yes, but can that Star Trek eyewear read text?

Head-mounted displays (HMDs) are swirling in the market and starting to approach adequate functionality but are still too expensive, too low resolution and strange looking for public use. At MacWorld last week, Massachusetts-based MicroOptical announced that their $269 Myvu glasses for viewing iPod video content will be available in the spring, though limited by the low video resolution of the iPod. The product has already been launched to Orange mobile phone subscribers in France. Other electronics accessory manufacturers already have headset display models on the market of varying cost and type (e.g.; VGA, 3-D, LCD, one-eye/two-eye, $500-800+), such as Virtual Realities and iCuiti with the DV920, 3dVisor, eMagin and others.

Video is nice, but a ubiquitous application for the mobile head-mounted display should be text reading of web content, ebooks and any other kind of digital files. There is a tremendous opportunity to provide an obvious application and correct everything that is wrong with the ebook platform, including that it is a separate platform.

The multiplicity of use cases for mobile text reading perhaps dwarfs music and video consumption: commuting, waiting time, airplanes, at the gym, on the beach, in the bathtub, relaxed reading at home; content types also abound: news, learning-oriented material for school or work, books, magazines, blogs, Internet browsing, etc. Privacy of viewing also need not be underestimated with personal eyewear; though work meetings may need to wait for a less obtrusive headset.

Text reading has long been available on mobile devices but is still primitive and prohibitory in most cases, for example, the iPod's limited screen width and manual scrolling. At least two kinds of functionality are needed: the capability of the text reader application and the ease of loading/refreshing content.

First, the text reader application must have appropriately high resolution, font size, number of lines of text displayed and auto-scroll speed such that the reader can adjust and feel natural with the content and the default is not too far from current written norms. Subsequent application generations can allow for annotation, hypertext and other additions.

Second, for wide adoption, one must be able to obtain content with as little friction as possible. Free content, html (including books), Word, PDF, txt documents, etc. should be easily readable and importable into the text reader management application and RSS/RSS-like subscriptions should accommodate updating content like current blogreaders and iTunes with podcasts. Protected content should be as above and with an easy rights purchasing mechanism.

Full-function text reading should be a feature of every mobile platform ASAP.


drjoe916 said...

I work for eMagin. I have used the Z800 3DVisor to review and edit text.

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