Apr, 22 2014

Heads-up display units are nothing new. Even before the advent of Google Glass, fitness-focused glasses had displays which fed users information about any relevant vitals they may need, location information, and more.

Sony seems highly interested in the field, and their latest patent gives us an idea of the strange apparatus they’re thinking of using. Patent application 20140104692 describes a head-mounted device with a reflective, transparent surface that would give you a look at the display of something attached to it. Something like, say, your smartphone.

sony head-mounted display patent 1

That’s right, folks — Sony wants you to attach your smartphone to your head and view a reflection of whatever is on its screen. Feel like watching Levar Burton straight out of an episode of Star Trek after looking at that image above? You aren’t alone.

Digging deeper into the patent, they say this solution solves the “problem” of heavy devices with heads-up displays which integrate the components needed to process and project information. More than weight, they say this would also bring a much more affordable head-mounted unit than what’s typically available (because what’s typically available are indeed expensive).

The fact that you’d need to attach a smartphone or some other display device in order to take advantage of the technology seems to cancel that “positive” out. The only way we see this being more beneficial than something like Google Glass or Oakley’s smart glasses is if Sony also sold a lightweight companion device that could serve up the information you need as opposed to using your smartphone.

Sony’s illustrated figures included with the patent application show variations that include front-facing cameras, and a method of tracking your eye movement to determine if you’re attempting to look ahead of you are look at whatever’s on the display. Ideally the display would be dimmed whenever you’re not trying to look at whatever is being projected, and will get more opaque when you do want to view it.

The patent figures at the USPTO alone are quite silly, and I’m having a tough time imagining how Sony can make this work in a practical way without:

  1. The user looking ridiculously ridiculous
  2. Being less cumbersome or heavy than existing solutions
  3. and potentially causing vision obscurity

For what it’s worth, Sony also briefly illustrated a different version of the unit (illustrated in the gallery sitting above) that looks more like actual an actual pair of glasses. The devices projecting their image in this instance would be side-mounted on each side of your face.

Perhaps none of this is meant for consumers, though. There could be many professional fields where this is more appropriate (for example, a surgeon who needs heads-up access to information about a procedure), but I have a feeling someone can think up a much better solution than this.

And then there’s the possibility that this is just Sony toying around with ideas. After all, the list of patents these companies file for that aren’t actually put to use in a real product or device is outrageously large, and we wouldn’t be surprised to learn Sony eventually decided to tuck this one away into a filing cabinet in the back of a cold, dark room.

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