Looking at Patty Maes' 'Sixth Sense' TED Talk, I'm inspired to make my own HUD. (Dude, you gotta check it out if you haven't already -- it's crazy cool. And more to the point, you'll need to see it to understand where I'm coming from.)
While brilliant, I find Pranav Mistry's solution for the age-old question of how to project data onto your visual field to be, at best, rather inelegant. What, so we're all supposed to be beaming data all over the place?
But it got me thinking, what would I like to have in a heads-up display?
* Goggles remain the best way I can see of transmitting the information to your visual cortex. But regardless of functionality, in order to be adopted any HUD can be no more inconvenient than regular glasses.
* The only way a HUD would be worthwhile is if it makes my life better or easier. If it crams a lot of useless information into my field of vision, what's the point?
* Mistry's on-hand phone dialing and watch circling is incredibly cool, don't get me wrong -- but it's also a silly extravagance. These features do not appreciably improve your life. Pulling your cell phone out of your pocket is just as easy as making a circle, and do not require tape on your fingers.
* The photo tool is also another stylish but useless tool. First of all, the angle is wrong. If you shoot a picture you want it to look good based on what you see, not what a lens on your chest sees. Secondly, and more importantly, the function of digital photography that makes it so awesome is realtime editing. Not being able to shoot a pic, look at it, and possibly delete and reshoot is what made film cameras obsolete.
* This wasn't part of Maes' presentation, but one staple of science fiction HUDs is Web 2.0 crap like IMs, texts, and so on. I really couldn't imagine myself walking around with an IM window in my field of vision. I'm really not interested in constant connectivity with friends if it means an obstructed field of view. I think I'd prefer some sort of subtle status update: X number of emails, voice mails, IMs, texts, etc. The iPhone does this well.
* The part of Maes' presentation that really struck me was when Mistry was at the store and his HUD assisted his shopping experience by rating products based on previously recorded preferences. For instance, I'm not Vegan but imagine how awesome it'd be to see all Vegan products highlighted when you walk down an aisle? This is an example of something that only a HUD could do.
* Another way these preferences could work is by interfacing with your calendar. If you always have lunch at 11:30, at that time your display could suggest a restaurant nearby based on your preferences. If you need to buy the wife an anniversary present, the HUD could remind you when you pass the jewelry store -- maybe it could even access your wife's preferences/wishlist to help you choose the right present.
* Or it could interface with your budget. If there's a GAP store around the corner, and the database has established that you like the GAP -- and the store's website says there's a sale and your budget shows $115 unspent in your clothing budget, your HUD could point out the opportunity. This is a far less obtrusive way of attracting sales than we saw in Minority Report, where stores could scan your iris to determine your identity, then look in their own database to too see what you might be interested in. Wouldn't it make far more sense for users to control their own shopping experience?
* Information about geography could be another example of helpful HUD data. Imagine linking GPS to Google Maps and other databases so you could learn more about the buildings you pass. It could be as practical as restaurant ratings: BILLY BOB'S DINER, ** $. Or it could be esoteric info like who lives in that building, businesses, or even historical data about the building.
* Another killer HUD app is realtime translations while overseas. Find the best French restaurant without opening your guide book!
* Finally, there must be a way of absorbing data you're interested in. For example, you may have your feeds shut off because you're driving. Does that mean your HUD is shut off? Maybe not. There needs to be a way of storing data for later study -- there'd be too much information otherwise.
(Photo credit: mrvelocipede, Community Commons)