DigiLens makes light work for athletes

Athletes who work out in the gym must keep a regular watch on the dials and gauges of the various bits of equipment monitoring their performance. Out in the field, however, it has been virtually impossible to display biometric feedback to athletes cheaply and safely – until now. The Dataview is a miniature, full-colour head-mounted […]

Athletes who work out in the gym must keep a regular watch on the dials and gauges of the various bits of equipment monitoring their performance. Out in the field, however, it has been virtually impossible to display biometric feedback to athletes cheaply and safely – until now.

The Dataview is a miniature, full-colour head-mounted display unit so small and light, it looks as cool as a pair of designer sunglasses. No matter what the activity, the Dataview will enable data from sensors measuring an athlete’s performance to be displayed on a tiny, low-cost, see-through screen in front of the wearer’s eyes.

Still under development, the Dataview is a combination of US holographic display technology and UK expertise in designing wearable head-up displays. The design work and ergonomic testing for the Dataview were carried out by Leicester-based Renfrew Group on behalf of DigiLens of Sunnyvale, California.

Conventional head-mounted optical displays are heavy, need head straps or supports on the bridge of the nose, and soon become uncomfortable to wear. Electrically switchable bragg grating technology (ESBG or, as they say in Sunnyvale, s-bug), pioneered by DigiLens, allows holograms to be created in layers of liquid crystal polymer. These then act like thin lenses, bending and focusing light beams, filtering, and correcting opthalmic aberrations.

A number of holographic layers are stacked together to produce lightweight optical devices. They work because each layer can be temporarily made clear, allowing the optical properties of the next layer to become effective. Colour is achieved by building in a stack of hologram layers which are sensitive to red, green and blue light.

According to Bruce Renfrew, head of the Renfrew Group, the Dataview is expected to go on sale in the US and the UK next year. It is the first of many potential applications for the s-bug technology which range from micro-displays to optical fibre-switching devices and filters used in telecommunications.

Renfrew has designed and produced a number of wearable displays and virtual reality devices over the past few years. The Phillips Scuba headset sold 70,000 units in Japan in two years, the company says.

Copyright: Centaur Communications Ltd. and licensors