Blink and

You don’t need to be a pilot to use headsup dis­plays, writes Hay­den Walles.

The Press - The Box - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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