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Eyeball to Eyeball
Ultraminiature computer monitors worn as part of a headset conjure up images of Jordy LaForge from the new generation of "Star Trek" space travelers. But if Reflection Technology has its way, such displays won't remain the futuristic vision of Hollywood set designers.
The Cambridge-based company unveiled Private Eye last November, and 100 proto types are being shipped to several developers. Instrumentation, computer, medical, and consumer electronics companies have expressed interest in the tiny monitor, which provides the full-size image of a 12-inch display from its 1 X 1.2 X 3.2 inch package.
"Everything inside the display is present-day technology," said Neil Golden, the company's director of sales. "It's just applied differently."
You can hold the monitor near your eye or mount it on a headset. The company said Private Eye displays text and graphics at 720 X 280 pixel resolution. The screen image appears to float in space about two feet from your eye, but the image doesn't occupy your full field of vision, freeing you to do other things while incorporating the information that's displayed.
"It's the virtual image of a 12-inch display," Golden said. The eye and brain recognize the way the image is presented as being much larger than Private Eye's one-inch screen, he explained.
Golden expects Reflection Technologies to be in full production in 12 months. By that time, developers will have created some of the products that can use the innovative display. The range of possibilities runs from videogames to commercial manufacturing.
Used with a pocket computer, for instance, the miniature monitor could provide the equivalent of a desktop computer in a form much more portable than today's laptops.
Once in full production, expect prices at around $500. After a couple of years, Golden said the price may drop to near $50, which would make it a hot consumer item.
Only time will tell how far Private Eye will go. But visions of a midlevel sales executive cruising the freeway in a BMW, a car phone planted against one ear, one hand on the wheel and the other pounding a laptop, one eye on the road and the other focused on a spreadsheet that floats in the air just past the windshield, may make pedestrians of us all.
- Peter Scisco