TTP augmented reality glasses prototype takes on Google Glass

Wearables competition for Google's Glass continues to surface, with a UK-based research team revealing its more discrete take on the head-mounted augmented reality display. The Technology Partnership (TTP) has embedded a micro-projector in one arm of a pair of ostensibly normal-looking glasses, the Guardian reports, beaming an image via a mirror onto a special reflective pattern etched into the lenses and straight into the wearer's eye.

The end result is a digital picture directly overlaid on top of the real-world view, a different approach to Google's strategy with Project Glass, where the floating display is set up slightly, and out of the wearer's usual eye-line. TTP's version promises a more persistent integration, and requires no change of gaze by the user themselves.

Or, at least, that's what the end result will be when the prototype gets its next upgrade. Right now, the headset can only show a monochrome, 640 x 480 image, not a moving video, but the hardware to do that is expected to be ready within the next "few weeks."

While overlaying content onto the surrounding environment potentially looks more impressive, it does open the door to more complex issues for whatever software is driving the headset. Precisely lining up computer-generated graphics with the real-world becomes essential, for instance, a problem Google's first-gen Glass seemingly bypasses.

Arguably more useful is TTP's approach to head-mounted display control. Google has been experimenting with a combination of side-mounted touchpad controls and voice-recognition, as well as flirting with object recognition, but TTP has opted for a more straightforward system which tracks eye movement.

Rather than existing pupil-tracking approaches, however, which were discounted for being "relatively computationally expensive," their implementation relies on electrodes mounted at the temples of the headset, and which measures eye-movement in the muscles there. The electrical signals in those muscles can be crunched to figure out which way the eyes are looking, and that translated into UI interaction.

Project-based systems aren't new – Lumus has a similar approach with its AR eyepiece - but no single company has managed to corner the fledgling wearables market so far. TTP will not be manufacturing its display or eye-tracking technology, but instead hopes to license it to third-parties; the company is apparently "talking to at least one California-based company" though no names have been mentioned.