You arrive at work, pull on your cap and headgear, clip the control module onto your belt, and fire up the system. At a signal from the wireless computer on your hip, light is projected onto the headgear's scanning mirror, passes through the pupil expander to enlarge the image, through the lens for focusing, until finally your monocle reflects the sweeping, low-power laser light to your retina. Referencing the transparent red schematic floating over your field of vision, you begin to tune up the engine beneath it.
A scene from the latest sci-fi film? No, just another day at the repair shop—at least at the Honda, Ford, Chrysler, and GM dealerships using Microvision's Nomad Expert Technician System.
The Nomad system is an 802.11b wireless, wearable Windows CE.Net thin-client computer that relays data, such as engine manual pages and diagrams, to a head-worn display module that overlays information onto the worker's vision. "If you have a wireless network, you can be up and running in ten minutes," explains Matt Nichols, Microvision's director of communications. The effect is like having a 17-inch SVGA display at arm's length, but one that you can see through to the real world.
Nomad's advantages are literally transparent. Most competitive systems use an either-or approach. Either you look at the image projected in front of you, usually at quarter-screen resolution, or you look around it at the real world. Nomad uses scan beam technology to scan an image onto the eye and superimpose it transparently over your field of vision, so you can see the data and the real-world situation in the same glance. Because of the laser diodes used, Nomad's display does not wash out in the presence of ambient light and can even be read in full daylight. Plus, optional hardware incorporates sensor technology to track your head movements so that the image moves to follow the direction of your gaze, so your reference material is available wherever you look in the engine—or even if you're checking to see what the boss is up to.