Virtual Retinal Displays – where they could be deployed

The tech world went crazy when Google recently announced its research on ‘Google Glass’ – a spectacles-esque array of electronics that claims to provide many of the features commonly found in mobile devices directly to your eye, by use of a VRD.

But that’s by far and away not the only implementation of VRDs in the modern world – and there’s already much discussion about just how far to push the fold. Brother have been offering VRD ‘spectacles’ for a while now – though nothing quite as sleek as Google’s offering – and the kind of functionality they suggest is a good rule-of-thumb for where we might see these things used.

Personal Devices

What do you carry on a smartphone? A calculator, wireless printer service, document editor, calendar – it’s basically the briefcase of the modern consumer. But what’s the drawback? Navigation. You have to break contact with something or someone in order to access a different ‘area’ of the device. Content is on-demand – but that ‘demanding’ requires active user attention and involvement of multiple senses. There is definitely room for improvement.

Numerous smartphone faculties can be paired with a VRD to provide on-demand access to content. That’s maps, calendars, and even interactive media like films and games – paired with hands-free navigation, such as eye-scanning or voice control, we could see real hands-free viewing. So, miniaturisation of digital devices can continue further, integrated with VRDs. It’s a reality in the very near future.

Commercial applications

While numerous commercial applications share the same usage-space as consumer applications – to-do lists, document editors and calendars to name but three – the potential in industry is enormous. Individual enterprises that are making the transition to tablets – for their instant-on and minimally invasive nature – such a factories and heavy industry could well see the benefits of completely hands-free operation. Picture –as do Brother in their advertisements – an individual constructing objects by hand and in accordance with a set of instructions. While a tablet device offers a great solution, the ability to project a Head-Up Display (HUD) containing the necessary information directly on to the user’s retina is an incomparable improvement. Or a doctor performing complex surgery – able to call up medical notes or procedural guides during practice. Once in a while, a technology emerges that enterprises recognise as potentially revolutionary – VRDs are, in my opinion, one of those things.


In the last article, I referenced the lukewarm consumer reception of 3D video, mainly due to the poor nature of the product itself. That’s something that is ripe for VRD involvement. And not just superimposed 3D images – augmented reality, with images genuinely rasterized on to the ‘real’ background image is well within our grasp. From virtual name-badges to virtual paintball – VRDs offer a gateway to extremely realistic simulated realities. If we can blend virtual images with real images in this way, will there be a future for all-in-one printers? After all, a blank sheet of paper blended with a VRD-produced virtual image of an e-mail might well serve just as well as a printed letter.

So, that concludes this series of articles on VRDs. We’ve seen that their introduction is potentially revolutionary – not simply an incremental improvement. It may well be that, shortly after the advent of this technology, the entire consumer and commercial technological worlds will change dramatically.

What do you think? Do VRDs have a place in the modern world? Would you be overly-concerned about wearing something so vital? In the rain? On your head, at all times? Let me know in the comments below.

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