Bright Idea: Innovega’s iOptik system

March 21, 2014

Drew Atkins


There were plenty of Google Glass competitors at this years Consumer Electronics Show, the annual expo and bellwether of tech trends. But the iOptik system from Bellevue-based Innovega stood out for its ambition.

Where Google Glass offers a small digital display in a corner of the users vision, iOptik takes a different tack. Through a combination of eyewear that serves as a translucent projection screen and a specialized contact lens allowing those projections to be seen without strain, iOptik can present images and information over a users entire field of vision.

Innovega developed prototypes with support from the United States government and armed forces. The military applications for such a product are easy to imagine. Fighter pilots have been using so-called heads-up displays on their helmet visors for decades, after all.

But will the average tech consumer go to the trouble of wearing contact lenses and spectacles just to see the sort of information or entertainment normally displayed on a smartphone, tablet or laptop?

Innovega CEO Steve Willey thinks so, and has been in partnership talks with electronics companies to bring iOptik to market. Willey believes his system can combine the uses of Google Glass and those of larger devices, such as virtual reality helmets.

With iOptik, the goal is to allow users to watch high-resolution media as if its on an IMAX screen, to have an immersive gaming experience at home or to simply overlay their view with information, notifications and graphics showing them reviews of the restaurant in front of them, for example, or the distance traveled during a neighborhood jog.

The way smartphones changed everything, says Willey, we see eyewear as the next generation. The big question is what product will offer the most compelling case.