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New Headphone-Display Combo Developed By MSU, UM Grad Aims To Reduce Eye Strain

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Avegant Glyph

ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – An Ann-Arbor based company that’s developed a new wrinkle on a personal video display will show off its invention at the International CES in Las Vegas next month, and will begin selling consumer units on Kickstarter.

Avegant says its Glyph combination headphones and video display uses a novel technology called Virtual Retinal Display.

Avegant CEO Edward Tang said the technology was born out of the research of cofounder Allan Evans, who did his undergraduate work at Michigan State and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan.

“After Allan graduated he went to go do research at a government lab, and came up with the idea of trying to mimic natural vision by projecting reflections into your eye, the way we see the world,” Tang said. “We stare at things like computer screens all day, and as you know, if you look into that screen for half an hour, you get really tired. But if you look at the real world, you don’t. He set about trying to solve that, trying to recreate that really vivid, natural image. He created a virtual retinal display that replicates how we see things in the natural world, by reflected light. When you stare into something that’s glowing, like an emissive LCD panel, you get eye strain. We reflect the light — we take a low-power, low-light LED and shine it at a couple million microscopic mirrors. These mirrors bend and tilt, and we use the mirrors to control what light to reflect to your eye. That’s the core technology of what we’re working on here.”

Each eyepiece, less than an inch in width, contains a million microscopic mirrors.

Wednesday, Tang said, Avegant announced that the glasses were no longer a technology in development — they’re now a product. They’ll be available for $499 starting Jan. 22 at kickstarter.com.

“We’ve raised a lot of angel funding in the area, but support from Kickstarter will be absolutely essential for us,” Tang said.

Tang said the company has been working on the product for about a year. There are currently eight employees at the Ann Arbor headquarters and locations in Chicago and Mountain View, Calif.

Tang said he met Evans while working at UM. “As he was getting his Ph.D., we happened to click,” Tang said. “He always had great ideas, and one day he called me up and said ‘You gotta come check this out.'”

“This” turned out to be the Glyph. It’s intended both for gamers — since its integrated head tracking allows for immersive, responsive game response — as well as media viewing. The headset also includes premium audio, Tang said. Essentially, you’ll flip down the headband of the headphones to watch video.

Avegant’s display at CES will be included in the Texas Instruments pavilion, located in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The formal unveiling of the Glyph beta headset will be Jan. 6. he headset will make its first public appearance at a CES event with cable TV’s Syfy Network, “Who Will Take Your Brand Into the Future?.”

The version shipped on Kickstarter will include an HDMI-MHL cable, onboard battery power and a thinner, narrower display band than the Glyph beta being shown at CES.

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