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Future Google Glass may look more similar to regular glasses, Google patent reveals

A new patent awarded to Google describes a technology that would let the company create future Google Glass generations with a design more similar to regular glasses.
April 25, 2013

A new patent awarded to Google reveals that the company’s future Google Glass generations could look more like usual glasses than the current model does.

Filed in October 2011 and awarded today by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, the patent describes a new way of projecting images on the user’s retina – something that’s somewhat clear from the patent’s title: “Near-to-eye display with diffraction grating that bends and focuses light” – that would let Google actually remove the glass prism from the current Google Glass model and replace it with an in-lens system to project images.

Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass
Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass

As you can see in the image above, the new Google Glass technology would use a see-through display that not only would let regular light through, in order for users to actually see what’s happening around them, but also project images to their retinas filled with all the virtual capabilities Google Glass comes equipped with.

In more technical terms, this is how it all works:

A near-to-eye optical system includes an optically transmissive substrate having a see-through display region and a repeating pattern of diffraction elements. The repeating pattern of diffraction elements is disposed across the see-through display region of the optically transmissive substrate and organized into a reflective diffraction grating that bends and focuses computer generated image (“CGI”) light impingent upon the reflective diffraction grating. The see-through display region is at least partially transmissive to external ambient light impingent upon an exterior side of the optically transmissive substrate and at least partially reflective to the CGI light impingent upon an interior side of the optically transmissive substrate opposite the exterior side.

From the looks of it, both lenses of such a future Google Glass pair would include this “near-to-eye” display, although we’ll remind you that, like with any other patent, the fact that it’s been awarded to a company doesn’t necessarily mean a product exactly like the one described will be made in the near future.

At the same time, with Glass, we certainly expect Google to continue to modify and adapt the product to the fit users’ needs, with design also an element that can evolve in the future.

From the patent description: “FIG. 3 illustrates an example repeating pattern of diffraction elements organized into a reflective diffraction grating that reflects and focuses light, in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.”

The current Google Glass model, which we’ve seen in the wild for a while now and we’ll be seeing more often considering that there are plenty of Explorers playing with it as we speak, comes with a glass prism on the right hand side which beams images from a projector straight onto the user’s retina. Our Robert Triggs describes it best in our “How it Works: Google Glass” feature:

The clever virtual HUD overlay is actually based on quite a simple premise: there’s a mini-projector located inside Google Glass which projects an image onto a semi-transparent prism. As the prism is semi-transparent, the projector’s image is reflected into the user’s retina whilst still allowing for regular light to pass through the prism and into the eye.
As everyone’s faces and eyes are slightly different, Google Glass allows for the angle of the prism to be adjusted slightly in order to obtain optimal focus for the project image.

The commercial Google Glass launch will only happen in about a year from now, according to Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt, so it will certainly be interesting to see whether the company will come forward with a new design by then.