Heads-Up Display

Introduction to Heads-Up Display Technology

What is a Heads-Up Display?

A heads-up display is a wearable piece of technology that allows you to continue whatever you are doing while data is overlayed in your field of vision.  Think of it this way: Normally you have to look down or to one side or the other to get information while you are doing a task, but heads-up displays allow you to keep your head up, quite literally.  The information or data you need is projected in front of you, but in an unobtrusive way so that you can continue to do what you were doing.  After a while the data and information just becomes a part of the regular background.

What are the current and potential uses for a Heads-Up Display?

Heads-up displays are best known for military and aircraft uses, but they have already entered the consumer market.  Heads-up displays are already being used in cars, and in fact they have been used at least minimally for almost 20 years.  Soon you may find a heads-up display in-car windshields that might show speed, navigation, traffic alerts, and potentially even warnings about objects you can’t see or hazards.

There may also be uses for a heads-up display in sports, including in ski and swimming goggles that help the wearer navigate, know his or her speed and distance, and watch for obstacles.   Of course heads-up displays also may have a place in gaming, with virtual reality helmets often already having this technology.  Bicycle and motorcycle helmets could integrate this technology as well.

Your Heads up Display and Social Media

Every new invention or innovative idea finds it’s way into the social media world.  A heads-up display is certainly no exception.  This is especially true of the heads-up displays used for sports and gaming.  People often want to share information about their performance and ability, and a heads up display can quite easily provide the means or measuring those attributes.  Social media then gives the opportunity to share the information.

Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram can all be integrated with the augmented reality produced by a heads-up display.  Thus, for example, if a person is skateboarding his or her performance, such as heights achieved, speeds attained, or distance traveled can be immediately uploaded.  Further, graphic representations of exactly what was done can be uploaded into these social media sites from the heads-up display.

The integration of heads-up displays does not just happen in one direction.  Comments made by friends to the post containing the information can be displayed on the virtual reality display.  Your performance can be compared and contracted on the heads-up display with the performance – whether in real-time or from historical data – of others. You can even conceivably compare your data to the performance of a famous athlete or other high performer, and of course if necessary brag about how you did in comparison on social media – with the evidence to prove it.

Heads-up displays and social media are a natural pairing given that these instruments give you the proof to go along with what you might otherwise just say with words.  And this integration opens the way for collaboration, competition, and comparison.  If you are a person who likes to use social media to share, and you are here because the technology is interesting to you, you should realize that these two interests can very much be interwoven.

Your Heads-Up Displays and Augmented Reality

There has been a lot of chatter in the tech world about “augmented reality”, which basically refers to a devices ability to improve upon what you see in your natural world.  In other words, augmented reality is all about feeding you information that can assist you, make something more enjoyable, or allow you to do something faster.  And in a lot of cases so far, augmented reality – whether actual products or proposed uses – has used a heads-up displays to accomplish these goals.

For example, augmented reality has been proposed to integrate the internet within your walking life, perhaps giving you access to Wikipedia while in a museum, a map of restaurant menus while walking a city street, or a picture of the terrain ahead while on a walk or jog.  But as opposed to you having to hit buttons on a smart phone and stop and look at the information that comes up, augmented reality is designed to have the data appear to you just like any other data you would naturally take in without breaking stride or looking away.  Of course this is exactly what a heads-up display will do as well.

One exciting aspect of augmented reality using head-up displays is the potential to be able to share information and not just take it in.  Cameras have been integrated with a heads-up display that take a picture not only of actual reality, but of augmented reality.  You can send out a picture not only of what you see, but perhaps a little extra information as well.  You could send a picture not only of the nature you passed on your hike, but the slope and distance covered.

Heads-up displays are developing quickly into a core technology that will be involved in the roll-out of augmented reality products.  Perhaps soon these products will be as much a part of our lives as smart phones are now.

Lasers Have Made Heads-Up Displays More Practical

We are not talking about a new technology here.  In fact, there have been heads up displays in airplanes and in military applications for decades.  However, heads-up displays were not truly been widespread in the consumer market because the technology was not cheap enough or refined enough for use in mass-produced products and for untrained consumers.

Recently, however, all of that has changed.  Fourth generation heads up displays use lasers rather than LED lights to project information, and this change has made it more practical to have this technology embedded in many consumer applications.   So now the same products that you might find in a commercial airline is found in some high-end cars.  The move to lasers was a giant step in the viability of this technology for widespread use.

Laser head-up displays use red and blue lasers to project images onto a surface, such as a windshield.  The lasers are actually moving quite fast, but so fast that you cannot detect the movement.  As opposed to third generation LED displays, lasers project images that are sharper and easier to see.  Data, images, and warnings can be projected in your field of vision sharply but without interfering with your ability to see what is ahead.

This fourth generation laser technology will truly be advanced when green lasers are more fully mixed in, allowing for the display to project a greater variety of colors (the lasers actually mix the colors like an artist mixes paints before they are projected).  Yet right now green lasers are quite expensive, but it is likely that their cost will come down.

Parts of your Heads-Up Display

There are three primary parts of a heads-up display: A projection unit, a combiner, and a computer.  Each part performs an important function in presenting data in the field of vision of a person, as follows:

– The projection unit in a heads-up display is a lens with either a Cathode Ray Tube, led, or lcd in it.  This part does exactly what it sounds like it would do, projecting the data into the field of vision of the wearer, driver, or game player.  This piece needs to be lightweight but effective and powerful.  This part of the head-up display is the one that has undergone the most improvement lately.

– The combiner is a piece of glass or plastic in front of the wearer that allows the wearer to see what they are doing and also see the data at the same time.  It is the surface on which the data will be projected.  In other words, something must capture the data from the projection unit and make it presentable.  That is the job of the combiner.

– The computer generates the data that the projector will be providing to the heads-up display – whether they are images or symbols.  The computer may be wireless and located somewhere else, not necessarily on the wearer.  The computer may be working with satellites to give location information, or may be gathering traffic information.  It may be a video game console, helping with night vision, or presenting a virtual reality system.

Those are the three primary parts of any heads-up display.  Newer versions use lasers in their projectors for maximum clarity, accuracy, and visual acuity.  The computers on newer models are more powerful and incredibly well designed.  While it is likely the technology will continue to be refined and improved, these three parts are likely to endure.

Of course Wikipedia has more information about heads-up technology