In addition to a retail model of the ST1080, Silicon Micro Display will be launching a less glamorous version of the ST1080 targeted toward developers. They are calling it the ST1080 DDK (display development kit). As with the ST1080 production unit the price is not yet announced but the company has confirmed that the DDK will go on sale in December. Alongside it, the production model will become available for pre-sale.
Silicon Micro Display CEO Paul Jin has confirmed that pricing will be announced for the production ST1080 on December 1st, and we’re expecting to see the DDK go on sale the same day. Presumably, the DDK will be less expensive than the production model because it appears to be quite a bit less glamorous and might use older prototype components. The thumbnail above is the only photo of the DDK that I’ve been able to track down so far, though the DDK might end up looking different than this.
The real question, of course, is why would you need a display development kit for an HMD? It’s important to remember that the ST1080 is different than most HMDs that we’ve seen so far thanks to it’s 10% transparent display. The transparency is thanks in part to the LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) display technology that is used in the ST1080, and may make this an excellent platform for augmented reality and wearable computing applications. This fact is likely why the company thinks that launching a DDK is a good idea. The technological capacity is all around us for impressive immersive virtual reality/augmented reality, but unless someone is actually creating the content for it, why would anyone ever buy the hardware? If they can dish out the DDK for a reasonable price to some talented folks, perhaps they can get the ball rolling on content that works especially well with HMDs.
One very important part of ST1080 which makes it great for wearable computing applications is that it is powered via USB. The Sony HMZ-T1 requires that the controller unit be powered by external AC, while the ST1080’s controller unit can be powered through USB. This means that someone can put a powerful laptop in a backpack, plug in the ST1080 through USB, and instantly have a simple wearable computing setup with no external battery required. Additionally, the light weight of the ST1080 HMD itself (180 grams) and the control unit (160 grams) could be enough to make this a bag-less wearable computing setup (if you have a UMPC that’s small enough to wear on your person as the processor) which would be pretty cool. From there, just attach a gyro and accelerometer, and you’ve got a platform ready for serious augmented reality! I’m looking forward to seeing what people will do with the ST1080 DDK. Stay tuned, we’ll be covering it here!