The Treehouse + The Cave

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Variable Opacity Glasses

Variable Opacity Glasses Small
Please view the full-scale image as well.

When I used to work at Martha Stewart, I would take my lunch (when I splurged) in the conference room whenever possible. And as much as I appreciated the privacy, that's not what drew me in there. It was the variable opacity glass. The entire length of the room, over 10 feet for sure (8 feet to the ceiling), was draped in the material. By simply adjusting a dimmer switch (this one happened to be in the slider style), the giant sheet of glass would gradually change from being absolutely transparent to translucent (milky), looking sandblasted or evenly Armor Etched.

Since walking out of Starrett-Lehigh, my personal-items boxed and under one arm, I've only encountered similar glass once again, while freelancing for a company with equally pricy tastes. Ever since, I've been in love with the glass, constantly thinking about the opportunities it presents. My first thought, one that has been gestating for years now, was: If they can make variable opacity privacy glass, and they can make Transitions eyeglasses (which work via a photochromic rather than electrical method, I know) why can't they come up with glass that can fade from clear to smoky via an electrical control. This material would allow for the invention of something I want desperately, variable opacity sunglasses that the wearer could adjust themselves, opting for the most tint on the sunniest days, and for crystal clear lenses in the evenings, or when it's overcast.

The biggest problem I foresee with these glasses (besides the potential power supply issue) is the interface through which the wearer manipulates the opacity. This is something I happened to be thinking about (I doubt that I've ever really stopped) on the train the other day, when I came up with the solution: An solid-state invisible touch-sensitive slider on each of the arms that span the distance from lens to ear (see the full-scale image for illustration). That sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Most folks are already familiar with identical interfaces, think: iPod scroll wheel, laptop trackpad, those lamps at Wal-Mart that turn on and off when you touch them. All of those examples operate via a principle called capacitance. As the wearer gently slid their finger along either arm, the opacity would change. Clearer towards their temple, fully tinted just prior to their ear.

Satisfied that this was an elegant gadget, I started to apply the principle. What if instead of tint, the touch-sensitive opacity slider were able to fade a video image in and out? What if after UWB and H.264 are accepted standards, we're able to wirelessly broadcast video to transparent displays (like the lenses in glasses)? Could a wireless, UWB (or even Bluetooth) iPod be far behind? Five years, do you think we could have this within five years?

Blogger Unknown thought:

Yes please!

August 19, 2016 at 10:57 PM - Comment Permalink  

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