You don’t need to be a pilot to use headsup displays, writes Hayden Walles.
Once found only on fighter jets, the headsup display (HUD) has begun to infiltrate civilian life. Electronics and optics are now so small and cheap that personal versions are available, possibly paving the way for a revolution in the way we interact with devices around us.
HUDs have their origins in aircraft, and this remains their most familiar application today. A HUD displays information in front of a pilot, overlaid on the outside view, so that they can read their instruments without looking away from the action.
A typical aviation HUD works like the Pepper’s ghost illusion employed in live theatre. There, a sheet of glass erected in front of the stage reflects a transparent image of a performer hidden between the audience and stage. To the viewers in the audience the performer’s image appears behind the glass, on the stage, interacting with the other performers.
A HUD uses a transparent treated sheet mounted in front of the window, and the projected display reflects off the sheet. From the pilot’s point of view the information hovers in front of them, superimposed on the scenery outside. Today’s digital displays provide all sorts of information to assist pilots.
Once upon a time HUDs were too expensive and bulky to appear anywhere except in aircraft. Today, though, HUD systems are available for cars. These typically reflect the display off the windscreen, which makes a reasonable HUD medium.
HUDs aren’t just for vehicles, though. Canadian company Recon Instruments has devised a HUD small enough to be mounted, along with a tiny computer, in ski goggles. Apart from using GPS to display speed and other information, the latest, secondgeneration version of these goggles runs Google’s Android OS, opening the door for innovative applications supplied by third parties. Recon Instruments are working on sunglasses with the same technology.
But even if glasses aren’t for