TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: The Next Big Thing: Tiny Screens, Way up Close

The Next Big Thing: Tiny Screens, Way up Close

Monty Solomon (
Tue, 28 Feb 2006 02:14:12 -0500

By Scott Kirsner

Stuart Auerbach doesn't mind being mistaken for a cyborg in airports
across the country.

On a trip last month that took the Wellesley venture capitalist to
Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, and back home, Auerbach was wearing
a pair of narrow, futuristic glasses with integrated headphones.

The glasses, made by MicroOptical Corp. of Westwood, enlarged the
image from Auerbach's video iPod, making it seem as though he were
looking at a 25-inch screen from about 6 feet away.

Auerbach may have been watching ''Master and Commander," but he
looked like 'RoboCop.' His glasses, a freebie from his friend Mark
Spitzer, the chief executive of MicroOptical, are part of a new wave
of products designed to improve on the screens of our tiny portable
devices. These next-generation displays will allow you to surf the
Web on your cellphone without squinting or catch up on ''Conan"
during a transcontinental flight.

For several years, MicroOptical has been trying to convince people
that eyewear is much better with monitors built in. Now that the iPod
can play video, company executives feel the stars are finally
aligned: wearable displays + devices with small screens = major
profits. But competitors aren't far behind.

MicroOptical's glasses -- the company calls them the 'Myvu Personal
Media Viewer' -- have tiny liquid crystal screens built into each of
the temples. (The screens are made by another Massachusetts company,
Kopin Corp.)

A kind of periscope relays the image to a spot on the glasses in front
of each eye, magnifying it in the process. The wearer can see what's
going on above and below the glasses, and can even see through areas
that aren't occupied by the image. The glasses, which cost $269, are
connected to a battery pack by a thin wire (the pack holds three AAA
batteries) that plugs into the iPod.

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