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Monday, November 22, 2021

Ahead for Augmented Reality

Heads up for the road ahead.  Good piece.

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The Road Ahead for Augmented Reality, By Keith Kirkpatrick

Communications of the ACM, December 2021, Vol. 64 No. 12, Pages 20-22   10.1145/3490317

Automotive head-up displays (HUDs), systems that transparently project critical vehicle information into the driver's field of vision, were developed originally for military aviation use, with the origin of the name stemming from a pilot being able to view information with his or her head positioned "up" and looking forward, rather than positioned "down" to look at the cockpit gauges and instruments. The HUD projects and superimposes data in the pilot's natural field of view (FOV), providing the added benefit of eliminating the pilot's need to refocus when switching between the outside view and the instruments, which can impact reaction time, efficiency, and safety, particularly in combat situations.

In cars, the main concern is distracted driving, or the act of taking the driver's attention away from the road. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2019, the most recent year for which statistics have been published. Looking away from the road for even five seconds at a speed of 55 mph is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with one's eyes closed.

As such, the desire to ensure that drivers keep their eyes focused on the road, instead of looking down at the gauges on the dashboard, was the impetus for the development of HUDs suitable for use in production automobiles. The first automotive HUD that was included as original equipment was found on the 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Pontiac Grand Prix; both were monochromatic, and displayed only a digital readout of the speedometer.

Thanks to the increasing inclusion of a variety of automotive sensors and cameras, advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features and functions (such as automatic braking, forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring, among others), and more powerful on-vehicle processors, automakers have been installing HUD units in commercial vehicles that provide more essential driving data, such as speed, engine RPMs, compass heading, directional signal indicators, fuel economy, and other basic information, allowing the driver to concentrate on the road instead of looking down to check the dash or an auxiliary screen.

The technology enabling most types of HUD is based on the use of a processor to generate a digital image of data coming from sensors. These images then are digitally projected from a unit located in the dash of the car onto a mirror or mirrors, which then reflect that image onto either a separate screen located behind the steering wheel, or onto the vehicle's windshield, directly in the driver's forward view. Common projection and display technologies used include liquid crystal display (LCD), liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS), digital micromirror devices (DMDs), and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which have replaced the cathode ray tube (CRT) systems used in the earliest HUDs, as they suffered from brightness degradation over time.

The HUDs that project the information onto a separate transparent screen are called combiner HUDs; these were popular because the physical space required to install the system was modest, and because the system was fully integrated, OEMs did not need to design a system that accounted for each vehicle's unique windshield angle or position. However, this type of HUD was limited by several factors; namely, the optical viewing path of a combiner HUD is shorter than looking through a windshield, and the driver's eyes must refocus slightly to the shorter visual distance when switching between looking out the windshield and checking the display. Furthermore, there is a practical limit to the size and field of vision (FOV) offered by combiner units; adding mirrors and a larger combiner screen would apper obtrusive and less elegant in a modern vehicle than simply using the windshield as a display surface.

Because HUDs were far from being standard automotive equipment in most vehicles, companies such as HUDWAY and Navdy had produced phone mounts and screens designed to allow a smartphone to operate as a head-up display. Essentially, these designs functioned as combiner systems, in that they required a separate screen on which to view the display and suffered from many of the same limitations as OEM-equipped combiner HUD systems. While Navdy went out of business in 2018, HUDWAY is still accepting orders for its HUDWAY Drive system at a cost of $229 per unit.

The technical limitations of combiner systems have driven most automotive OEMs to offer HUDs that project information directly onto the windshield and contain a far greater amount of data, known as W-type HUDs. These more-advanced systems incorporate ADAS system status information (such as displaying the status of adaptive cruise control systems, automatic braking systems, collision-avoidance technology, infrared night-vision technology, lane-keeping assist technology, and, eventually, semi-autonomous self-driving system data.

The most advanced systems include augmented reality technology, which involves superimposing specific enhanced symbols or images into the HUD onto real-world objects or roadways to provide more information, detail, and clarity to the driver. Some systems will also incorporate data from GPS navigation systems, such as clear directional graphics, street names, augmented lane markings, signposts and route numbers, and even representations of other vehicles/objects on the road. Examples of vehicles that include this technology today include the Audi Q4 E-tron, Mercedes Benz S Class, and the Hyundai IONIQ 5.   ..... ' 

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