Yesterday, we wrote about a new helmet from BMW with heads-up display technology introduced a the Consumer Electronics Show. Today, we’ve learned more information about the technology from its developer, DigiLens Inc.
Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., DigiLens develops holographic optical materials and copy technology for augmented reality display systems. DigiLens primarily produces technology for the aerospace, security and consumer electronics industries but is now trying to enter the automotive industry.
“Beyond night vision, transportation, enterprise and gaming, we believe we have the key AR display technology for hands-free wearable solutions like HUDs and eyeglasses-type solutions,” says Jonathan Waldern, DigiLens founder and chief executive officer. “This is the gateway device to enable a range of next generation mobile access and cloud services.”
For the BMW helmet, DigiLens produced the waveguide optic, a 3mm thick display screen positioned in front of the wearer’s right eye. The size of the display is important as it needs to be thin enough to fit inside a helmet but leave enough room for glasses while not interfering with the wearer’s field of view. The lightweight waveguide optic display screen magnetically clips into the helmet. It holds a small image generator that holographically prints images onto the screen. DigiLens says the waveguide optic has a long range focal point, allowing the rider to see the information without having to refocus his or her eyes.
Unlike other HUD systems being developed (such as Skully‘s AR-1 helmet), the DigiLens system produces what the company calls “complex holographic diffractive optical structures” into the display rather than using a relatively bulky projector system.
The helmet contains a mini-computer that can process data to display information including speed, local speed limits, traffc warnings, fuel level, turn signals and phone communications. Cameras on the helmet can be used to record video and the display can show the view from a rear mounted camera, acting as a digital rear view mirror.
“Until now, the perception of the industry was that current HUD approaches did not meet the needs of motorcycle riders. The introduction of the DigiLens HUD represents a sea change,” says Chris Chinnock, owner of Insight Media, a market research firm for display technologies. “With the expanded field of view, long range focus point and intelligent rider cues, the DigiLens HUD may prove to be the new standard adopted by motorcycle manufacturers everywhere.”
While DigiLens worked with BMW for the CES presentation, the company says it intends to offer its motorcycle display technology to other OEMs after completing further testing, with availability expected in 2017.