VTT spin-off Dispelix brings a 60-inch virtual display to smartglasses, enabling them to replace smartphones.
Spin-off company Dispelix Oy will commercialise a new display – developed by VTT – which brings visual information directly into the user’s field of vision, as a high-definition image on an eyeglass lens. This will enable smartglasses or regular glasses to replace even smartphones or tablets, while still allowing users to see the world around them.
“As electronics and optics evolve, displays will even be seamlessly integrated into ordinary glasses,” predicts Antti Sunnari, Managing Director of Dispelix Oy, which is commercialising the technology.
Until now, there was no display technology available for smartglasses that allows the design of aesthetic eye wear and is suitable for high-volume production. Dispelix tackles these issues with the new solution.
Developed by VTT, the technology is based on lightguide optics, which enables the manufacture of displays on either glass or plastic in the form of light and thin elements with a thickness of just one millimetre. In addition to thinness, the benefits of the technology include a large, high-quality virtual image and excellent transparency.
“The size of the virtual image is equivalent to a 60-inch TV viewed from a distance of three metres,” Sunnari explains.
The display’s user-friendliness is boosted by the fact that the virtual image forms optically in infinity within the user’s field of vision, which prevents eye strain. Dispelix’s display solution can be customised to meet customer needs – depending on the application, either simple, monochrome information or a multi-coloured video image can be displayed within the user’s field of vision.
The display, which can be almost invisibly integrated into lenses, is already close to the markets and ready for high-volume applications. The forthcoming displays will have unlimited applications for consumer and professional use. Also integrable with current smartglasses, this product should be available to consumers within a year.
The first applications will be found in the worlds of exercise, work and motor racing. Thanks to the new display, there is no need to check your pulse-rate from a watch – pulse-rate, navigation and activity data will be directly displayed to the user on sport glasses.
“Vehicles already display a lot of information in the dashboard, navigator and other controls. It would be much better to display this information on a display in glasses, using a suitable brightness. This would allow the driver to keep their eyes on the road at all times and better focus on driving,” Sunnari says.
The innovative display is also ideal for enterprise applications. Smartglasses will boost work efficiency by allowing workers to use both hands in difficult conditions, or to learn more about the task as the work progresses. New applications for Dispelix’s display technology and smartglasses will appear in areas such as healthcare, the manufacturing and process industry and logistics.
The company aims to secure a share of the augmented reality markets which are estimated to generate EUR 150 billion in revenue in 2020. Optics account for some EUR 1.35 billion of this revenue.
The displays are ready for mass production and the company aims to make the first customer deliveries in 2016.
Primarily, this requires a good product development strategy, large contact network, choosing the right business partners and a lot of hard work at the customer interface. The company is run by two people at the moment.
“My role has involved acting as a catalyst and identifying suitable manufacturing technologies. I have also created a few display elements myself, from start to finish. My business partner Juuso Olkkonen is the brains of the optics, in that none of this would have been possible without his deep and profound expertise in diffractive optics,” Sunnari emphasises.
Dispelix intends to grow and estimates that it will have a staff of at least 30 people in 2020. The company currently operates in Oulu and Espoo.
Merging three types of reality
At the moment, the sector is divided into three segments: virtual, augmented and smart eyewear. Watching movies or embarking on virtual adventures does not require a transparent display, because users are completely immersed in the movie or game. Using transparent displays and adding 3D mapping of the environment to virtual reality solutions allows the creation of engaging user experiences and, for example, product design modifications directly in the 3D world.
In the future, games will be embedded into the physical environment for an immersive experience. For example, a player can see a virtual image on a coffee table, and aim and shoot Angry Birds characters at Bad Piggies on their couch. Mediated reality is well equipped to replace smartphones. All three segments will eventually merge and be available in one device, but not for quite some time yet.
“It will take from five to ten years before smartglasses and smart headsets will replace smartphones and game consoles,” says Antti Sunnari from Dispelix.
New types of displays are emerging
The dynamic duo behind Dispelix, Juuso Olkkonen and Antti Sunnari, are using the spin-off company to commercialise a new display technology developed by VTT. The patented technology is based on an innovation by Olkkonen, Sunnari and Olli-Heikki Huttunen. It is the first solution globally to combine the three most important qualities in smartglass manufacturing; image quality, design and cost-efficiency.
The displays are ready for mass production and the company aims to make the first customer deliveries in 2016. Dispelix currently operates in Oulu and Espoo.