Google Glass Prototype Using Color Filter LCOS

Google Glass Prototype Himax 1

I was looking at a video that showed a Google Prototype the other day and it became obvious to me that they were using a color filter LCOS panel.  I have seen speculation that Google was using DLP or OLED devices but this is clearly wrong.  And any speculation of it being a laser beam scanning device is simply silly (LBS is way too big and expensive)

In some recent videos and articles about Google’s Glass development show the guts of the prototype.   It looked pretty clear it was an LCOS panel mounted on a PCB going through a beam splitter to the light guide for the see-through display.   Below is a crop of the picture from the Verge Article “I Used Google Glass . . . “

Frame Capture at 1:56 in Verge Video on Youtube
Frame Capture at 1:56 in Verge Video on YouTube

What caught my eye was that there were only two wires going to the LED illumination (in a white package — see picture above) which was indicative of a white LED.   A field sequential device would have to have separate wires for each LED (or laser).     To get a color display starting with a white light source, the device had to have color filters on it and so by a process of elimination, it had to be a color filter LCOS device.

Knowing that Himax made color filter LCOS,  I searched through some pictures I took of HiMax’s panels (since they made color filter LCOS) and found some pictures I took at an electronics show Hong Kong in October 2010 (see picture on the right above.   The optical engine was for a about a 10 lumen front projector so the optical engine is a bit different (particularly the lens) but the panel in the Google prototype is a perfect match to the Himax color filter one used used by Shiny Optics (then owned by Himax) in 2010.  In the close up crop (and rotation) next to the Google prototype (see top images), the flex connector on the PC board, the PC board with its mounting holes (red arrows), and PC-board silk screen markings (green and blue arrows) are a match.

2010-10-14_Shiny Optics Himax Panel_5951
Shiny Optics Exhibit at Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Oct. 2010)

Note, the resolution of the Himax display was only 320 by 240 pixels (by 3 colors/pixel) for this panel.     This resolution may seem very low, but remember that Google glass is only putting an image in the upper corner of a person’s field of view so it only covers a small part of the viewing area.   This is also consistent with the latest Google Glass video (frame captured below) which has a low resolution display (note the simple fonts and few text characters across the screen).

Google Glass Video
Google Video “How It Feels” at 1:07 (Feb. 20, 2013)

It got me that the panel was oriented the wrong way in the Verge video/article (the image would come out long in the vertical direction).  But then another article by Fast Company Co Design article “Google’s Project Glass: Inside The Problem Solving And Prototyping” (see second picture below) had the panel rotated.    Since the Fast Co Design picture shows a smaller system, I assume it is a later prototype, but it uses the same panel (same telltale markings and a “white” LED).

co pro design google glass
From Fast Company Co. Design Article

But note, I would tend to doubt that Google is still using color filter LCOS.   Himax has taken most of the information about LCOS down from their site and may be out of this business.  But more importantly, for a low resolution and low brightness (near eye, rather than a projector) application such as this one of only about 320 by 240 pixels (more on the resolution of the Google Glass demo in my next article), a smaller more compact design could be done with a transmissive color filter panel which is what I suspect Google is now using.

Lastly, I’m sorry to be away so long.  I got very busy with work and got out of the habit of posting.  I have some things to write about including more on Google Glass, green lasers, Heads Up Display, and more on technology in general,  so hopefully I will be a bit more frequent.


Karl Guttag
Karl Guttag
Articles: 244


  1. hi friends i have project i need this display where can i bye????????
    Plz help me………

    • I assume you are asking where you can get a Himax Color Filter LCOS display. I don’t think there is anyplace that carries them routinely. You probably have to contact Himax directly. I don’t know of anyone else that has a reflective LCOS in production. Epson makes a color filter microdisplay used in their Moverio AR glasses ( Other companies such as Kopin make transmissive color filter microdisplays used in near eye applications.

      If you could clarify what you are looking for, I might be able to give more help.

  2. Hello,

    I’m looking for a prototype wearable display, LCOS or not, do you anything that can be purchased in low volume? I searched some Chinese forums but that is way to difficult to figure out what is said — translation is not so good.

    • I might be able to help IF I know more of what you are looking for in terms of a spec. In particular at least some basics:

      1. AR (see through) or VR (non-see-through)
      a. If see-through, how transmissive must it be.
      2. Resolution
      3. Size and weight
      4. Cost range

      Any other requirements would help. It would also be helpful to know what you are wanting to do with it. Are you looking for something you can modify? Is is for indoor or outdoor used (important if this is AR).

      • Hi,
        Was looking for something similar.
        AR see through purpose. Doesn’t need to be that transmissve – less priority.
        Resolution – I have 2 use cases : 1. Need to mirror a smartphone, mostly text based content. 2. Just plain text and figures. Looking for low res cheap stuff.
        3. Size and weight – No constraints as long as it can fit on a head mounted setup without much bulk. This system will be the only thing residing on the eye wear. Computing and battery can be moved elsewhere.
        4. Cost – What’s the cheapest option. Also, will there be international shipping?
        5. Both indoor and outdoor use. Can compromise on the transmissivity depending on the requirements.

      • You seem to be going in several different directions.

        Mirroring a smartphone’s resolution could be expensive in any available technology. Today LCOS is usually the cheapest, but it can cost $30+ for 720p and over $50 for 1080p per eye just for the displays (and double these numbers for low volume). For low resolution, you could consider either transmissive displays (HTTPS or Kopin). Himax has some “front-lit” technology that is more optically compact.

        Transmissive more than double the cost of everything. The optics are typcally much more expensive. The display has to be to be very bright because being transmissive wastes a lot of light. Going brighter, in turn, means more power and more heat to get rid of.

        Most people will end up with some flavor of LCOS. You have Himax, Syndiant, Raontech, and Citizen Finetech Miyota that I can think of off the top of my head to chose from.

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