Personal Displays Keep Data Private

Reporter's Notebook: At the Society of Information Display conference and expo, vendors show new ways to keep snooping eyes away from your screen-including eyeglass monitors.

SAN FRANCISCO—The dueling needs for privacy and data sharing played out here at the annual SID (Society of Information Display) International Symposium. Vendors showed new technologies that can keep neighbors on a flight from getting a glimpse of the corporate secrets on a laptop screen and new ways to share video on an iPod or handheld.

The SID conference is a regular gathering of OEM technology vendors, manufacturers and suppliers for entire computer industry. In addition to papers presented on the latest technologies, the expo booths hold products ranging from ribbon video connectors that fit inside laptop cases to the latest touch-pads.

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Screen sizes vary from tiny (or even nonexistent, using lasers that create an image via a scanning light sent directly to your retina) to 100-inch high-definition television screens.

On the privacy front, vendors showed three different approaches to microdisplays for personal viewing. All of these displays are worn by the user in eyeglasses or in a display that covers the eyes.

Some are see-through designs, placing the image within the visual plane of the user, while others function more as super-portable screens that block out the world.

  • Lumus PD-20 Series. Based in Rehovot, Israel, Lumus demonstrated two new models in its consumer line of heads-up displays, the single-sided PD-21 and the dual-element PD-22. The devices use the companys LOE (light-guide optical element) technology, a thin, transparent lens that collects light from a tiny projector mounted on the side of the optics.

The LOE combiner package can be mounted on standard frameless eyewear, according to Eli Glikman, product manager for Lumus. The device provides a bright, full-color, 320x240-pixel image.

The technology is a consumer version of the companys PD-10 unit, which is aimed at industrial and military applications. That display offers Super VGA resolution, or 800x600 pixels.

  • Kopin Microdisplays. A longtime OEM vendor of postage-stamp-sized displays, Kopin showed a new range of high-resolution displays, including a 1,280x1,024-pixel screen for gaming and virtual reality simulations. Its CyberDisplay SVGA LV, aimed at the forthcoming lines of ultraportable PCs, will provide 800x600-pixel resolution. Both will be available in the third quarter of 2006, the Taunton, Mass., company said.

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Unlike devices that use transparent screens or lenses and let users see the surrounding environment and the image, the Kopin technology completely covers the eyes of the user. For most consumer and business applications, that may not be necessary, company representatives observed.

Demonstrated in the companys booth were several products using Kopins technology: The MicroOptics Myvu "personal media viewer" display presents a 320x240-pixel color image (QVGA). It was shown playing movies from a video iPod. The Icuiti DV920 is now available in Sharper Image stores and provides 640x480-pixel resolution, a Kopin representative said.

  • Microvision Nomad The Nomad Display System from Microvision, based in Redmond, Wash., uses a laser to project its 800x600-pixel Super VGA image straight onto the users retina. The generated image appears in space in front of the user, along with the rest of the visual field. The company demonstrated two versions of product, one with a wired connection to a PC, and the ND-2100, which can connect to server-based applications over a Wi-Fi network.

The technology lets users adjust the focal depth of the image, company representatives said, and can be viewed successfully in bright daylight environments. The company has a number of military contracts and showed law enforcement applications in the booth.

On the data-sharing side, Microvision on June 6 introduced the PicoP, a tiny projector for mobile devices. According to Matt Nichols, director of communications, the company is looking for partners to embed the projection technology in handsets.

Nichols demonstrated the technology in the booth. He said the companys Integrated Photonics Module, about half the size of a box of matches, can produce a full-color, high-resolution image, while only using a small amount of energy. According to Nichols, the technology provides "personal projection" for content, such as video from media players.

The tiny projector modulates laser light to create the image and does not require a lens to focus the image. Of course, the image is brighter the closer it is to the wall, seat back or t-shirt that its being displayed on.

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