A future of wearable displays

…is here!

I reviewed the XREAL Air recently and walked away with a new tool in my computing kit: display glasses/head-mounted displays (HMDs).

The space is definitely heating up. Manufacturers are dropping the bulky, computationally heavy devices with oodles of sensors (although the Air ships with some amount of IMU capacity, my use case neglects it completely), and pushing towards lighter and brighterdog devices with a focus on the actual display technology instead of the bells and whistles of the Oculus and so forth.

However! The Air indicates that manufacturers are wearing institutional blinders around the kinds of products they should be developing. The addressable display space on the Airs is 1920×1080, the standard 1080p resolution of high-end TVs from a decade ago. However, actually wearing these glasses, and looking at the edges can get a bit painful, as the eyes have to rotate a significant distance from dead center in order to get the fovea pointed at the corners of the screen.

Stretching to look at the corners of the screen is largely irrelevant when working with display glasses and Ubuntu, as they’ve long since gone to the “search first” UI paradigm, and away from the Windows-style Start menu paradigm (I also have no problem with other LInuxes that I’ve beaten into submission with my favorite tiling window manager EXWM, although that is a post for another time). That said, I do find myself attempting to optimize content for the center of the display, because holding my eyes out at the edges of my field of view for extended periods of time does become a bit tiring.

Some suggestions for designers of this kind of hardware: reduce the field-of-view, reduce the onboard compute requirements so that these devices only do computation necessary to decode DisplayPort 1.4, and drive the things towards the highest pixel count possible.

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