These glasses still sound a little like a concept to me, but several blogs are reporting their existence, so they're worth spending a little virtual ink on, so long as it's taken with a grain of salt. The glasses, designed by NEC, are the perfect international travel companion in that they take a foreign language, intepret it into your own language and then cast the intepretation onto your retina so that you're able to seamlessly speak with others (or at least understand what they're saying).
The device features four parts: the glasses, a microphone, a projector and computer. The computer is worn around the waist and serves to translate the language being spoken. The microphone, of course, provides the audio input. The projector displays both the original language and a translation of what was said into the user's native language. It casts them onto the user's retina. Two people using the system would be able to hold a productive conversation without the need for an interpreter.
Supposedly, the retina projection is a world first and helps one
to use the glasses for hours without any eye strain. The projection is on the peripherals of the vision, meaning that one can look
directly at the person with whom he's speaking.
While the uses for these glasses are numerous, there a variety of potential complications. First, walking around in an oddball pair of glasses with a computer strapped to your belt is hardly the first impression you want to make in a foreign country. The system seems like it would only work well if both users had a pair of glasses, so it unfortunately wouldn't be useful to the common traveler, but only for situations that were set-up ahead of time (e.g. business meetings). Finally, if there were a glitch in the translation, it could lead to some pretty awkward and potentially offensive conversations.
Despite the possible problems, such a pair of glasses could be an extremely useful and exciting development. While we're not 100% hopeful, NEC is reportedly trying to get the glasses ready for market by 2010. They'll be aimed primarily at business users.