Glyph: Headset from Avegant beams video into your eyes
Doug Gross CNN
10:16 AM, Feb 6, 2014
(CNN) -- Forget about the big screen, the small screen and even the second screen.
A headset due to be released this year promises to beam movies, video games or even video calls directly into your eyeballs.
Yes. The Glyph headset, from Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Avegant, will create visuals that don't need a screen -- just your retinas and your brain.
If that conjures up exciting images of living like "Star Trek's" Geordi La Forge or Cyclops from "The X Men," you're not alone.
A Kickstarter campaign was launched last month and set out to raise $250,000 to bankroll the project. It blew past that mark with ease and, with half a month left, was on the verge of breaking the $1 million mark Wednesday.
"We knew we had something really cool and that we'd do well on Kickstarter, but nobody thought we'd hit our goal in less than four hours," said Edward Tang, Avegant's CEO. "It's like ordering flowers for your girlfriend and they show up with a whole truck full of flowers."
The technology that powers the Glyph centers around a set of 2 million microscopic mirrors -- 1 million per eye -- that reflect visuals, including 3-D, into the user's eye.
Unlike some entries into the emerging wearable tech field, the Glyph won't be limited to a set of specially designed apps. Tang said the headset, which donors can receive for a $499 "donation" to the campaign, is designed to plug into just about anything you own that has a screen -- be it a smartphone, laptop, television or gaming console.
Users would play the video content on their mobile or entertainment device but watch it on the Glyph instead of their device's screen. The Glyph has a battery life of about three hours, Tang said.
"I think Google Glass is really interesting ... (but) I think it's a couple years away," he said. "If you ask people what they're doing with their devices today, they're streaming Netflix, they're playing video games and they're listening to music. We created a device that really focused on those aspects."
The startup also wanted to avoid the "Glasshole" effect. Google promises Glass will be stylish when it's released to the public, but the look of early test versions has been distracting to some and downright jarring to others.
Glyph, on the other hand, looks like a pair of headphones sitting on the user's head when not in use. In fact, it doubles as a pair of high-end headphones with noise canceling that compares with some of the leading brands on the market, according to Avegant. To add visuals, the user flips down the band over their head, making it an eyepiece.
The company has opened the headset to outside developers, who they hope will find unexpected uses for its features, which include head-tracking technology.
"By giving developers this brand new tool box, they start to think of amazing applications that we couldn't in our wildest dreams come up with," Tang said.
But, wait. Mom always said not to sit too close to the TV set. And we all know that bleary-eyed feeling we get from staring at a smartphone or tablet for too long. Won't this be worse?
Quite the opposite, Tang said.
He said eye fatigue comes from staring at the artificial, pixelated light from our screens. Remove the screen, remove the problem.
"We agree with the moms of the world," he said. "What we're doing is mimicking the actual light around you ... . It's the kind of light that your eyes have been conditioned to see, have evolved to see."
It's all so magically futuristic sounding. Which raises an obvious question: Is Glyph all hype?
Folks who have taken an early look don't think so. At January's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Glyph was one of 40 products chosen for the Editor's Choice Award. More than 3,200 exhibitors attended the show.
"What I could tell was that the projected image, just like my last time with Avegant's virtual retinal display tech, was exceedingly bright and vivid, lacking any sense of pixelation," CNET's Scott Stein wrote from CES. "A deep-sea 3-D movie looked like it was projected in a tiny little movie theater in front of my eyes."
David Pierce wrote for The Verge: " 'Life of Pi' displayed perfectly in 3-D without any tweaking, and I played 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' right off a PlayStation 3. All you need to do is to tune the glasses --- you focus each eye individually, then set the two eyeholes the right distance apart so they create a single picture. From then on, content just works."
The Kickstarter campaign runs through February 21. Avegant plans to ship units to donors by the end of the year and says the model that will ship will be smaller and lighter than the test models on display.
Avegant is based in the heart of Michigan's manufacturing region and hopes to manufacture the Glyph as much as possible in the United States, Tang said.