Module-based glasses, design & applications

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Should wearable devices adopt an integration-based design or module-based design? Take smart glass for example, where increased functions increase the mass and weight of the product, which decreases the comfort level for users. However, although products with simple functions are light, the lack of functionality means users need to supplement it with other products, which is not practical. This article addresses how to adopt module-based designs for wearable devices and maintain the possibility of extending functionality, while keeping the product visually attractive.

Wearable glasses device

Shiann-Jang Wang, VP of RD JORJIN Technologies Inc., recently held a speech regarding this topic. Visually, first he tried on two smart glasses that have currently been announced in the market, one from an US-based company and the other from a Japan-based company. Both glasses adopt full-function design but the glasses themselves seemed kind of heavy and not as friendly as ordinary glasses. He took this as an example of the question whether or not humans need this heavy product.

Wang noted that Jorjin had many opportunities to work with international smart glass makers in past two years and jointly developed these smart glasses. From the clients' designs, the firm has learned the direction of smart glasses development and has been brainstorming better solutions to design products that meet consumer needs. His topic included areas such as the comparison of integrated designs and module designs, single-lens and dual-lens devices, small, wide and immersive field of views, display only devices and recording features needed, as well as features of the host control interface (HCI) which includes touch, eye, ring, voice and image recognition.

Smart glass design concept

Wang stated that currently announced smart glasses in the market have features such as a display, camera, sensors, and computing. Why is it necessary to bundle all those components into wearable devices? What kind of glasses are suitable for us and what kind of glasses are suitable for people of certain professions to obtain desirable information when needed? This can be discussed starting with the design concept.

Take the exterior, for example; currently there are two categories of design- Uniting and Separating. The former includes all functions into the glasses, such as Vuzix M100. The latter only includes necessary functions onto the glasses while other functions can be added separately, such as with the Epson Moverio BT-200, which this glasses only contain a display, camera and sensor functions, headphones and computing with accessories that can be connected through either cable or wirelessly.

Glasses with an integrated design have more functions and hence consume more power. This means battery capacity needs to be increased, which also increases the weight. Glasses with a module design concept separates the glasses from the battery, which can be placed in pockets or bags, moreover, make the glasses lighter and batteries lasting longer.

Some products are monocular and some are binocular. Products such as the Vuzix M100 and Google Glass adopt the single-lens design while Epson BT-200 adopts the dual-lens design. Both designs vary greatly in image-generation, light trail and image-projection. For dual lens, the product can produce 3D images and enable users to watch 3D movies. On the other hand, single lens products focus on improved resolution.

Smart glasses can be designed for different fields of views (FOVs) such as small, wide, and immersive. Single lens products can provide small FOVs at approximately 10 degrees and can project image similar to a 14-inch display being viewed from five feet away. Most dual lens products can provide wider FOVs. Epson BT-200 can provide an FOV up to 23 degrees and can project images similar to 160-inches viewed from 10 meters away. Meta Pro can provide immersive level of all-angle images.

In addition, there are other products that carry special features such as providing display on glasses (like Sony's HMZ family theater) or just cameras (such as Pivothead's HDHF hands-free high resolution camera glasses). Some have embedded sensors like Jins Meme smart glasses that can sense fatigue and can be used during workouts.

Best smart glass design - lightweight, power-efficient, and easy to control

Wang pointed out the three major factors in designing smart glasses - weight, power consumption, and HCI. For weight, consumers do not want to wear heavy glasses. Full immersion glasses can weigh close to one pound (453g), Google Glass weighs around 65g and Jins weigh around 36g. Hence, what is the ideal weight for smart glasses is a question for everyone to ponder.

As for power consumption, Vuzix M100 comes with a 3,800mAh external power supply that can last 6-8 hours. Google Glass claims the battery can last one day. This may be derived from optimizing efficiency of hardware and power management.

Thirdly, HCI can be controlled through touch, eye, ring, voice, and image. Whether or not to put all these features onto the glasses itself or use as accessories is a topic worth considering.

Module-based design provides strengths for best smart glasses

From the discussion, we can realize that through module-based design, smart glasses can achieve the strength of being lightweight, having a longer battery life, and better control. Hence, Wang noted, smart glass hardware can be divided into three categories - glass sensor, computer control, and cloud service. In particular, computer control can be connected with cloud services via LTE or Wi-Fi and connected with sensors via the Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI).

Jorjin Glasses Turnkey Solutions adopt the Raccoon hardware platform (with an OMAP4460/4470 application processor module), camera sensor board (can support 1.3/2/5/8 mega-pixel CCM sensor modules), in-house-developed Wi-Fi/BT/GPS and LTE/3G modules. The device is smaller than 15x65mm. The solution provides software components such as Wi-Fi Miracast, BLE 4.0, Precise GPS (PGPS), Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX), facial recognition, image quality control, environment expansion control, barcode scan, 3G/LTE data transfer and voice connection.

For glass sensors, Jorjin solutions provide features such as light engine, LCoS display/driver IC, eye flash sensor, and 1.3/2/5/8 mega-pixel CCM module, while keeping the size at 15x35mm. The software solution provides functions such as display quality control, display color compression, still image capture, video image capture, stream and play. All in all, Jorjin has been dedicating to providing module-based solutions in past two years til now and show the company's strength in the smart glasses development market. The firm joins the China Smart Glasses Industry Alliance and has also plays a leading role in developing smart glasses. The comprehensive module-based design and integrated software with the hardware will be the best system solution for smart glasses firms.

Shiann-Jang Wang, VP of RD JORJIN Technologies

Shiann-Jang Wang, VP of RD JORJIN Technologies