The Shades Of Things To Come

IN THE FUTURE ENVISIONED by Planar Systems Inc. of Beaverton, Ore., and Virtual i-O of Seattle, a pair of sunglasses will take you into virtual reality. The two companies have joined forces to bring that vision to market. Planar Systems, a $78 million maker of flat-panel displays, will contribute its proprietary active-matrix electroluminescent display technology. Virtual i-O, a two-year-old private company, expects to adapt the displays to its line of virtual-reality goggles.

If the team-up with Planar works, Virtual i-O says it can make a virtual-reality setup about the size of a pair of sunglasses. That's because Planar's new technology can project screen images onto a square that's less than an inch wide, says Linden Rhoads, president of Virtual i-O. The technology, which was developed under a contract from the Defense Dept.'s Advanced Research Projects Agency, uses circuitry under luminescent materials, providing images much faster than a liquid crystal display, with better resolution and less power. Planar says the companies hope to have a commercial product late next year.

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