In all this talk about Google Glass and the Vuzix M100, one HMD that I haven’t mentioned, but that definitely bears mentioning, is the Kopin Golden-i. The Golden-i has been around for a while, but Gen 3.8, being demoed at CES, is the first I’ve gotten to experience first-hand. The device, as a monocular HMD with an integrated ARM CPU, falls into the same technical class as those other two. But one look at this thing tells you that its designers have a different user demographic in mind.
The Golden-i is clearly intended for industrial and professional applications, and makes very few concessions to style-consciousness. There’s a lot to be said for that. Where Glass and the M100 feature
QVGA and WQVGA microdisplays respectively (my info on Glass resolution is second-hand and, while from a source I trust, shouldn’t be considered reliable) note: this has since proven to be misinformation
, the Golden-i boasts a full 800×600 SVGA display engine. And it makes quite a difference. The optics are pretty much perfect, and the articulation of the display boom makes it really easy to get the alignment just right.
The device I tried was running Windows 7 Embedded, which makes it the only device I know of that does. One hopes that they have an Android version in the works. That said, the experience of using this device was one of the most compelling I’ve had. The voice navigation is pretty much flawless, responding to murmured commands even on the noisy show floor of CES. In the image viewer app, I was able to zoom in and out by speaking the command “zoom level” followed by an integer. Then I could control panning and vertical scrolling of the image using the built in inertial sensors. Both of the other devices can do this, but this was the first execution of this navigation type that I’ve gotten to try, and it was great.
Of course, I was on the same page as the guy guiding the demo as soon as he directed me to speak the sequence of navigation commands to open the video player. The sample clip that he’d loaded was of that scene in Iron Man just after he’s suited up for the first time and we’re treated to a nice extended bit of first-person HUD footage. I’ve spent just a little too much time replaying that scene on my own Vuzix stereo HMDs, so that may have won him a bit of positive bias from me. It just let me know his heart is in the right place.
The most compelling bit of the demo though, was that they had a second unit loaded with first-responder software and a thermal camera. I didn’t get to try this, but my girlfriend did and said it was awesome. They had a second thermal camera of he same type hooked up to a monitor in the booth. This piece of kit would be an absolute life-saver for firemen (and those they’re trying to rescue in smoke-filled buildings) and also for law-enforcement officers in manhunt situations and the like. And I’m sure for many other people, in many situation that don’t even begin to occur to me.
When I asked about a price point, the rep replied “Let me put it this way: this doesn’t cost any more to manufacture than your cell phone does.” He also said that Verizon would start selling the devices here in The States this year. As to whether its purchase would be contract subsidized, he could only say “we’ll see.”
So while I don’t expect we’ll see image-conscious consumers rocking the Golden-i in its current form, this is by far the most functionally mature integrated HMD that I’ve gotten to try. I am, of course, still looking forward to seeing what Glass has to offer.