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Now You Can Wear Your Windows

You thought your Bluetooth headset gave you that certain je ne sais quoi cyberlook — perhaps like Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation after assimilation by the Borg. Now, along comes Kopin Corporation, with its strategic partner Mistral Solutions, launching its potentially game-changing Golden-i platform. Kopin’s headset makes you look more like a futuristic space soldier on Cameron’s Pandora than Patrick Stewart’s famous portrayal of the human-machine Locutus of Borg.

The next wave of cyber fashion? Imagine your smartphone feeding information to a 15-inch virtual Microsoft Windows PC display that sits in front of one eye (leaving the other free) while you speak commands using a hands-free natural speech recognition interface to control your phone and wireless access to the Internet. Rather than bumping into people while walking and staring at the smartphone in your hand, you view the Golden-i display as it sits on your head — with a hand-held mobile device in your pocket. Here’s a video (courtesy of Slash Gear) taken at the February 2010 Mobile World Congress (MWC 2010) at Barcelona, Spain:

Most likely arriving at your local Walmart sometime next year as a high-end PDA, probably in the $2500 range, the Golden-i combines Kopin’s SVGA microdisplay with a powerful OMAP3530 processor from Texas Instruments and runs on Windows CE. Other collaborators include Hillcrest Labs (motion-control) and Nuance (voice-recognition). Mistral integrated the processor with WiFi, Bluetooth, and various other peripherals, along with Kopin’s microdisplay. Slash Gear reports that the 8-hour battery (essentially a full working day) is perfect for “industrial users, such as engineers, warehouse managers and medical professionals, who need data access while simultaneously keeping their hands free.”

Imagine your smartphone feeding information to a 15-inch Microsoft Windows PC display that sits in front of your eye while you speak commands using a hands-free natural speech recognition interface…

“Built on Microsoft’s Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 operating system, Golden-i is capable of remotely waking Windows PCs from a hibernating state,” says John C. C. Fan, Kopin President and Chief Executive Officer, in Kopin’s Golden-i press release. “After Golden-i establishes a Bluetooth, WiFi, or cellular link through a host device, users see their PC desktop screen on a 15-inch virtual display, offering hands-free access to PC applications, data files and services. When work is done, the PC may be placed in hibernation with a single spoken command.”

So your right eye is more dominant than your left eye? No problem, Kopin has two versions — one for left-dominant and one for right-dominant eyes. An adjustable speaker sits by your right ear, and the eyepiece is designed to sit just beneath your line of sight. Kopin’s press release describes how user information and display content can be positioned in virtual space around you — in one example, two documents use virtual space like a Windows desktop. You can enlarge or reduce either document as required. The pages in one document can be turned as needed without affecting the other document. You can also view diagrams, schematics, maps or images. By speaking the words “switch on” to the head tracker, you can zoom into an image and move your head to look around to see the rest of the image magnified.

Golden-i Industrial HMD. Photo: kopin.comKopin’s existing product line includes CyberDisplay LCDs, the microdisplay of choice for advanced night vision goggles and thermal weapon sights used by the U.S. Army. Kopin has shipped more than 30 million displays for a range of consumer and military applications including digital cameras, personal video eyewear, camcorders, thermal weapon sights and night vision systems.

The EE Times of India is likely correct in suggesting that the Golden-i “promises to redefine mobile computing and communication.” The production model due next year — developer versions are available now — will be a half-inch thinner in the rear PC section and have a 1024 x 768 display. It will also offer faster Bluetooth 3.0 along with a snap-on, detachable wireless webcam that you can direct back on yourself for video conferencing.

Gesture recognition would be a nifty Golden-i add-on feature to allow smartphone control by finger gestures performed in front of the handset. With a single inexpensive webcam and a Texas Instruments OMAP3530 processor to process 3D movements this becomes possible — as demonstrated in the following video (again courtesy of Slash Gear):

While gesture recognition is still not widely available commercially, Bluetooth headsets are everywhere these days. Their shiny metallic form factors and glowing LED indicators are as much a cyber fashion statement as a practical alternative to hands-free smartphone use. Adding a hands-free voice-controlled headset with a small micro display and floating documents, maps, schematics, and images from a virtual Windows PC is, in some senses, clever repackaging of existing mobile communication technology. Will it be an iPhone killer? Add gesture recognition and eventually a thought-controlled keyboard (see “By Thought Alone: Mind Over Keyboard” in Resources) and you start to see why the Golden-i may spark the next generation of wearable computing.

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