PORTLAND, Ore. — Looking a bit like a head-mounted View-Master, the i-Air Touch glasses from the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), of Hsinchu, Taiwan, is a breakthrough system that tracks hand movements to enable touch-activated interaction with a 3D virtual head-mounted display. The i-Air Touch glasses will receive a 2013 R&D 100 Award on Nov. 7 in Orlando, Fla.
The i-Air Touch glasses project a virtual 3D image about 30 centimeters (12 inches) in front of the user by supplying separate left and right images to the user's eyes. Going one-step beyond Google Glass, the i-Air Touch also incorporates cameras mounted above the glasses to track the user's hand movements to enable him to perform touch-activated interaction with the virtual display.
ITRI, Taiwan's largest independent research lab, claims its i-Air Touch technology realizes the world's first see-through, head-mounted display that allows users to freely interact with it using touch. The user can use all the same gestures used on a normal touchscreen, such as swiping to change pages, pinching to zoom, and tapping to select entries on a virtual keyboard, all of which is only visible to the person wearing the glasses. And since the glasses are see-through, the user can still walk, navigate, and interact with objects and people in her surroundings.
The i-Air Touch interface allows users to touch activate virtual screens floating in mid air.
The camera mounted above the glasses uses ITRI's own DDDR (defined distance with defined range) camera to track hand movements with millimeter accuracy, allowing the user to use touch to interact with the virtual display in the same manner as if a touch screen were floating in mid-air. Because the DDDR camera uses both phase-coding (for distance) and color-coding (to identify fingertips), it will accept touch input only when the user's fingers are within a range of 28 to 32 centimeters (11 to 12.5 inches) in front of the glasses.
To conserve battery power, the camera shuts down the recognition electronics whenever the user's fingers are not within that range. Once detected within range, the DDDR sends a signal to the host application processor identifying the user's finger movements, allowing him to interact with the virtual display.
The i-Air Touch technology is modular, allowing its three components -- the see-through glasses display, the 3D DDDR camera, and the air-touch interactive software -- to be separately integrated with other wearable systems. ITRI claims that it is currently downsizing the camera module to fit into the ear-pieces of its eye-glasses, to eliminate the bulky look of the i-Air Touch glasses. As with all ITRI's technologies, the components of the i-Air Touch technology are available for licensing by electronics original equipment manufacturers.