Imagine a surgeon performing an operation, with a scalpel in one hand and forceps in the other. To maintain sterility, he can’t touch anything else. If he wants to pull additional information about the patient or surgical planning, he depends on the help of the OP staff. The Fraunhofer Research Institute (Dresden, Germany) has developed data glasses that would allow surgeons to perform hands-free searching.
The bidirectional OLED microdisplay used in the Fraunhofer data glasses enables users to view the real world while simultaneously browsing a wealth of virtual information and flipping through pages using nothing but their eyes. “Unlike the much noticed Google Glass, which has just a small screen in the corner of your eye, our device is ‘see-through’, meaning it provides large field-of-view of the virtual image and therefore enables truly augmented reality,” says Uwe Vogel, head of the business unit working on the data glasses system at Fraunhofer COMEDD, to medtechinsider, “You place a virtual picture over a large field of view, where you can browse menus and interact by eye-control, for example virtual buttons.” Thanks to special software, the data glasses are entirely eye-controlled: camera sensors integrated into the OLED screen register the direction of the wearer’s eye movements and an image processing program calculates the exact position of the pupils in real time.
The researchers have also incorporated an infrared light source in the frame of the glasses to perform accurate positioning even in low-light conditions. Completely invisible to the human eye, the infrared light won’t interfere with the work at hand. Surgeons aren’t the only ones who might benefit from this technology, of course. The smart glasses are useful in any activity that requires the use of both hands with a simultaneous need to access information, such as assembly work.
According to Vogel, the first industry partners are already experimenting with the smart glasses and analysing their potential in industrial, production, medical and security applications.
The research team won the Innovation Award IT 2013 in the hardware category at this year’s CeBIT fair.