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Of Video iPods and iGlasses

Robert Cringely—a columnist with whom I often disagree—wrote an interesting “I, Cringely” column this week on the Apple/Intel deal. While I think he’s off base on many points, he has a fascinating take on the rumored “video iPod” and a concept I’ll call iGlasses.

Cringely’s thoughts: “Apple of course has said it isn’t doing a Video iPod. To suddenly change their mind is nothing new: They’d describe it as the technology finally coming along to the point where it can finally support a video device that meet’s Apple’s high quality standards. But I don’t think that’s clever enough for Apple.

“This week, France Telecom’s wireless unit Orange SA announced that it was buying 230,000 video headsets so customers could look like Levar Burton and watch movies on their 3G mobile phones. The stereo headsets plug in to the mobile phones. Video quality isn’t very good at 320-by-240 (hey, that’s precisely NerdTV quality!), but what about a higher resolution display, possibly a retinal scan display, for the Video iPod? It’s the only way to extend Apple’s ‘Year of HD’ to its tiniest platform.

“Nearly all of the retinal scan patents are held by Bothell, Washington-based MicroVision, a company I have written about in the past. And from the look of the SEC filings, a lot is happening up there in Bothell. As always I have no insider information at all, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple introduced a super-high-capacity iPod and a separate retinal-scan display. It will be aimed at the very high end of the price scale, just like the Apple Cinema Display originally cost $4,000 for what now costs less than $1,000. The retinal scan display won’t be cheap, but it will be cool, and it will be some permutation of HD, too.”

(Actually, the original 23-inch Cinema Display wasn’t quite $4,000 and now goes for around $1,500, not $1,000. But what’s a few hundred bucks between friends?)

I have no idea whether Cringely is onto something or just has an active imagination. But imagine something like a light weight baseball style cap with ear buds with two little screens/mirrors hanging from the visor, close enough to give the perspective of viewing a very large HD screen. Macsimum News reader Dave Trapp also thinks it’s an intriguing concept.

“Consider those on commuter trains and buses, kids on a trip, or someone sitting in their living room wishing to view a different movie (or TV show) than others in the room,” he says. “Such iGlasses could replace a monitor on a standard desktop. They likely will be expensive at first but lots of potential users would find iGlasses worth that initial cost. And once in production costs are anticipated to drop rapidly. iGlasses have a secondary advantage. When the hardware and software are revised, each eye could receive a different perspectives making the first practical 3-D movies and computer presentations.”


At July 23, 2005 at 9:23 AM Anonymous said...


I was re-reading the march press release on the consumer HD display. The quote from Willey that struck me was:

"Our invention would use an array of conventional, inexpensive LEDs (light emitting diodes) and a very simple optical system consisting of only one or two elements to achieve the combination of more compact size, reduced weight and dramatically lower cost that are key to consumer electronics applications. "

What struck me was his use of the words 'conventional, inexpensive LEDs'. Assuming they're talking about an occluded display, do you think they no longer need eeleds to make this work?

If that's true, the only thing standing in their way is patent protection and ramping manufacturing (most likely with a partner, obviously, with MVIS being in the OEM role).

I wonder if we're not a lot closer to this than previously thought...?

At July 23, 2005 at 2:07 PM Ben said...

that is correct, they do not need EELEDs to make their new architecture work. Conventional surface emitting LEDs are a dime a dozen. And getting brighter all the time.

They have been filing patent apps on this thing, and I think what they'll do is partner with someone and the end result will be some kind of iGlasses product with 'MVIS inside' but branded, manufactured and marketed by the partner rather than MVIS. MVIS would then collect royalties on an ongoing basis.

I can't say we're closer than previously thought because I don't know what people have been thinking. They've been talking about their new architecture being key to their consumer device strategy. They've been talking about 'serious interest' from multiple companies which leads me to believe there are some kind of negotiations going on about it.

We'll see...!


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