Kopin Corp.Taunton, Mass.

CyberDisplay 320

In the near future, you could be nibbling truffles at a Parisian cafe while reading your e-mail, studying spreadsheets, searching Web sites, or even viewing the real-time-video house hunting of a spouse back in Rio de Janeiro -- all through a miniature display at the bottom of your cell phone. Kopin's CyberDisplay is as tiny as they come -- smaller than a thumbnail and thinner than a grain of rice -- but its impact on portable communications is bound to be enormous. Billed as the world's smallest high-performance, high-resolution active matrix liquid crystal display, the CyberDisplay fits neatly into next-generation enhancement plans for cell phones, pagers, portable computers, and other devices that millions of information-hungry consumers carry everywhere. While current cell phone displays show only a few lines of text, the CyberDisplay will enable viewers to see all the information that appears on the monitor of their personal computers. Using a lens and backlight to magnify and project the display, the CyberDisplay creates a virtual image equivalent to viewing a 20 in. full-color monitor from a distance of five feet, with equal clarity in bright light and dim. By the year 2000 Kopin estimates that CyberDisplay-equipped cell phones will be capable of much of the same functionality as laptop computers, while requiring only a tiny fraction of the power. The CyberDisplay is based on Kopin's patented isolated silicon epotaxy process, which produces the single-crystalline silicon on insulator wafers from which the displays are manufactured. The single-crystal technology allows the company to produce displays with a density of 1,700 lines per in. and an operating speed of 180 hertz. Along with its breakthrough in single-crystal technology, Kopin needed to develop manufacturing processes capable of turning out these tiny displays in large volume. "People just haven't been making things this small," says Glen Kephart, vice president of marketing display products. "There were all kinds of assembly processes that we had to invent along the way or learn to apply in miniature." Kephart emphasizes that the company has also been successful in keeping the CyberDisplay's cost well within consumer price points. Whereas OEMs can spend $300 for a notebook-computer-sized display, they can deploy the CyberDisplay in large volume manufacturing for as little as $20 each. "That's a big difference, and it opens up whole new worlds," Kephart says. "The potential uses for this device are limited only by the imagination." Kopin is busily exploring this potential with a range of OEM partners, including cell-phone giants Motorola Inc. and Siemens AG. Other applications in the works include digital cameras, in which the CyberDisplay will function like a traditional viewfinder but offer the added advantage of allowing users to review and select or discard their shots as well as view the camera's operating instructions; smart card readers, in which consumers can monitor the information on their cards; and a special helmet for the U.S. Army's Comanche helicopter pilots that will provide real-time images of what's happening outside the helicopter, as well as data concerning air speed, targeting systems, and compass directions. Even for manufacturers not making wireless telecommunications or high-tech consumer devices, the CyberDisplay might wind up on their factory floor. IBM Corp. has come out with the prototype of a miniature wearable computer that clips to a belt and employs the CyberDisplay on a tiny boom mounted on a headset. This application enables maintenance, repair, and system installation personnel to study wiring diagrams, inventory lists, and even videos while they work -- and leave the instruction books, blueprints, and other cumbersome reference materials behind. Of course, such a device need not be limited to the factory floor. Kephart suggests that the wearable PC would be perfect for business travelers who want to work on sensitive documents from their seat on the plane. While the person wearing the CyberDisplay headset would have an ample view of all relevant material, overly curious people sitting nearby wouldn't.

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