You Tell Us: Video Glasses for the Spy in All of Us

2 min read

Admit it. You’ve always wanted a pair of spy glasses like the ones Ethan Hunt of the Mission: Impossible movies uses to covertly scan the dossier on a master criminal who has to be stopped at all costs. Though your uses for such a device—checking e-mail, enjoying a movie or video game, or even reviewing sensitive company documents containing personal information—aren’t activities in which life and death hang in the balance, a new, ultrathin head-up display will let you view your Microsoft Word documents or situation comedies the way a spy would: as an image that appears to be a 60-inch TV screen situated three meters away.

Lumus-Optical, a Rehovot, Israel�based company that specializes in wearable displays, has developed a pair of eyeglasses that look like ordinary designer eyewear but have postage-stamp-size projectors mounted right where the arms meet the outside edges of the 3-millimeter-thick lenses. Lumus says the wearable display—for which it has yet to set a commercial release date or provide pricing information—can get away with such a compact arrangement while providing a 70-degree field of view because of the company’s patented Light-Guide Optical Element, or LOE, technology (the best conventional optics require 16-mm-thick lenses in order to deliver a 20-degree field of view).

Images from the LCD or LED projectors on the display’s arms are beamed onto a series of partially reflecting angled facets within the lenses, which act as light guides. The guides then deliver the images to a set of proprietary flat, transparent optical substrates also embedded in the lenses. These substrates’ partial reflectivity allows the display’s wearer to alternate instantly between watching the image set into the lenses and paying attention to the real world.

Two problems: the company literature describing the video eyeglasses says they can be powered by an ac power supply or two AA batteries. But pictures of a beautiful fashion model sporting the product don’t give any indication of where the batteries would slide into the slender frames. And it’s difficult to express just how nutty it would be to tether a display meant for on-the-go use to a power outlet. Any battery tiny enough to fit inside or onto the glasses’ Micro-Display Pods without protruding isn’t a battery that would run the device for very long. And how can you market a device as a way to view movies when it doesn’t include earphones? If the Impossible Missions Force delivered Ethan Hunt’s assignment on a pair of these video glasses, how would he know how long he had to dispose of them before they self-destructed?

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions