Head-mounted computing probably still seems a bit far-fetched to most every day users, but component manufacturers and tech suppliers are already gearing up to provide a future supply chain with the parts it needs to build such devices affordably and easily. Bosch Sensortec and Hillcrest Labs are two companies working in this space, and they’ve come up with complete sensor package for head-mounted display device manufacturers.
The Oculus Rift, Google Glass, the Recon Jet; all of these head-mounted computing systems share a need for embedded sensors to make their magic happen. Hillcrest and Bosch want to simply the manufacturing process so that the next wave of follow-on devices emulating these and other first-gen wearable computers can come to market quicker and easier, with lower development costs.
What they’ve created to make that happen is the Bosch Sensortec BNO070 system in package (SIP), which contains Hillcrest’s SH-1 sensor hub software. That sounds awfully complicated, and it is, but what it means is that a single component consisting of an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and 32-bit microcontroller (all common components on modern smartphones) will enable motion control, step counting, compass navigation, gesture recognition and even contextual awareness for future wearable head-mounted computers that use it as a component.
It’s designed to be both low-power (saving as much as 62 percent in energy consumption vs. currently available sensor hub components) and not require too much space within a gadget, which Hillcrest and Bosch say makes it perfect for use in devices that operate around AR, VR, gaming and general navigation (think hardware like the Livemap AR-powered motorcycle helmet with heads-up display, among many other possibilities).
The BNO070 will start rolling out to select development partners in the middle of this year, the companies say, so conceivably we could see it shipping in device by end of year or in early 2015. Everyday computer users may not yet be convinced their next one will reside on their head, but the industry is clearly moving to anticipate that trend, so we’re bound to see a lot of activity in this space in the coming months.