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Spex HMD headset allows enhanced vision for high-precision tasks

13 Jun 2018

New device brings virtual and augmented reality to an all-day wearable device.

Spex, a division of Toronto-based wearable medical device developer eSight, has released a new hardware and software platform intended to combine the best current augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) features in a head-mounted device that can be worn all day.

The Spex HMD was unveiled at the Augmented World Expo earlier in June 2018, and is said to be the first AR headset platform applying enhanced vision to a range of existing tasks where precision is required, but without obstructing natural vision.

"SPEX HMD represents the evolution of our healthcare technology platform to now make it applicable to a broad range of commercial, medical and industrial applications," said Brian Mech of eSight Corporation. "SPEX is a proven hardware and software platform that enables application developers to rapidly deliver high-quality, mobile, mission-critical applications."

The Spex platform includes a 21.5 megapixel HD camera combined with high-quality lenses and automatic focus, producing a system with an overall visual acuity of 0.6 arc minutes, said to be better than the human eye can achieve. High-resolution OLED screens and custom optics display images to the wearer, with higher contrast than other AR systems and better angular resolution than standard VR headsets, according to the company.

Four potential applications were mentioned specifically by the company at the product launch as being likely to benefit from the new platform. One is the medical arena, where clinicians could use Spex HMD to assist with the identification of areas of interest and improve the accuracy of surgical interventions.

Other uses include maintenance and repair of industrial systems in the field, where two-way audio and video exchanges between remote experts and on-site technicians will be of value; or in interactive training, where a tutor can remotely manage the experience for trainees.

Optical technology

In manufacturing industry, the platform could simplify order picking, inventory control and precision assembly jobs, by bringing the camera and display systems directly to the point-of-task for higher efficiency, accuracy and safety. Mobile security should also benefit, as the device could offer bi-directional streaming video for members of a team or other mobile personnel.

The Spex HD represents a development of eSight's existing VR and AR business, which is focused on devices able to help patients suffering from visual impairment. That goal involves the approximate recreation of human vision, and hence challenges such as low-latency and maximized peripheral vision. The company has previously commented that recent improvements in VR gaming headsets and smartphones have played a part in tackling these hurdles.

Current advances in optical technology have also been important for developers in the VR and AR space, such as the recent collaboration between waveguide manufacturer WaveOptics and lithography supplier EV Group to develop waveguides specifically for the AR market at an affordable price point.

This year's CES show featured a number of advances related to VR and AR technology, both for human-machine interfaces and consumer applications, while May's Display Week event included news of Schott's RealView high-index glass wafers, designed to enable a wide field of view in AR devices.

"To raise the bar and meet the requirements of this rapidly expanding market, manufacturers need superior optical wafers with qualities a full order of magnitude greater than what has previously appeared on the market," commented Rüdiger Sprengard of Schott at the show.

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