Olympus Google Glass Rival to Read Eye Movements and Winks

Everyone's eyeing the heads up display industry, and camera maker Olympus is a strong but less-known contender. Based on a patent published yesterday (Jul. 24) by the US Patents and Trademarks Office, the Japanese manufacturer is working on a Google Glass-like device that can detect your eye movement to trigger controls.

Olympus's project differs from Google's in two intriguing ways, starting with eye control. With the riveting title, "Eyeglasses type operation device, eyeglasses type operating system and electronic devices," the gadget could feature a built-in camera that tracks your eye movement to navigate its operating system. It could also carry motion sensors to tell what direction your head is turning. In an illustration published with the patent, it appears you can look left or right to select an option, then blink or wink to confirm it.

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In addition to eye gestures, the Olympus device can also be controlled by voice picked up by an onboard microphone, like Google Glass can. Turn-by-turn navigation is one of the use cases the patent filing mentions. The device can also include sensors for motion, GPS, temperature, illumination, infrared and touch for more contextual information. The patent also mentions "radiation" sensors, but doesn't explain what they would be detecting.

In some configurations of this device, you can even detach the display component of the glasses and mount it on your preferred side of the frame.  The small display sits just in front of the lens of the glasses, in a manner similar to Google Glass, but you can decide whether to place this on your right or left frame.

You might even be able to use the glasses to control other devices, such as your smartphone or tablet, according to the filing --"Various kinds of external electronic devices may be connected to the eyeglasses type frame by various combinations depending on application and the situation."

An additional "connector" will sit on the other side of your glasses to send signals between the display on your face and your companion device.

The USPTO patent (number 20140204021) takes priority over one Olympus filed last year in Japan (number 2013-006937). The camera maker has clearly been working on this device for some time, but whether we'll eventually see it ready for consumers remains to be seen. Google's Glass is currently available to the public at a staggering price of $1,500.

Staff Writer Cherlynn Low writes about cameras, apps, accessories and all things tech. Her best heads up displays are in her selfies. Follow her @cherlynnlow and on Google+. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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