Head to Head to Head: Olympus and Apple to Compete with Google on Head-Mounted Displays

Google’s Project Glass, a pet project of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is still in its prototype phase yet offers a glimpse into the future of wearable tech. (See the skydiving demo with the live video feed from the glasses at Google I/O.) Unsurprisingly, others have taken up the challenge of developing similar head-mounted technology, including Apple and Olympus.

Apple received a patent yesterday for a “head-mounted display”, which, although it sounds like more of a killer peripheral for the iPhone that a standalone device, would no doubt whip Apple’s fan base into a must-have-it frenzy. The display would essentially display information, video, photos, and so on received from another device.

Olympus' MEG4.0 wearable display prototype

Olympus, meanwhile, is also building the MEG4.0 wearable display, a Bluetooth 2.1-equipped device that will also communicate with a second device such as a smartphone but will also have its own built-in acceleration sensor, its own interface, and the possibility of GPS features. The QVGA (320x240) device weighs 30g with the battery and looks like a pair glasses with a tailpipe.

Google's Project Glass prototype

That’s not to say Apple and Olympus are ripping off Google here; innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum, so it makes sense that multiple parties would develop the same basic idea with similar technologies at roughly the same time. Indeed, Apple’s patent was filed back in 2006, indicating that the company at least thought such wearable technology would be a possibility in the future.

Despite the fact that we didn’t have smartphones at all just a few years ago, it already seems almost silly that we do so much communication with pocket-size computers that we schlep around everywhere we go; it looks like smart glasses may be the next step in the evolution. You no longer have to squint very hard to see the next big development in mobile technology coming on the horizon.