How the Golden-i Works

It fits snuggly under a typical helmet, and it looks snappy with a suit. But make sure your tie choice fits the color scheme of your Golden-i computer.
Courtesy Kopin

Imagine that you're a firefighter commander heading to the scene of a conflagration of apocalyptic proportions. A hurricane of fire has trapped at least three people in a windowless office on the third floor. Your job is to get them out alive. But there are a lot of unknowns, like the layout of the building, the number of available firefighters and much more.

In order to make the best decisions on the fly, you need as much information as possible -- and you need it while you're at a dead run, with hands too busy for a laptop or tablet. Thanks to the Kopin Golden-i, you have the power of a computer right on your head.


Golden-i is a wearable computer that has all of the elements of a regular computer contained within a head-mounted device. There's flash-memory storage, a CPU, RAM and a display, along with options for wireless networking. To control Golden-I, you use both voice commands and head gestures.

Kopin stresses that this isn't a computer for everyone. You won't code a new app or work on a financial spreadsheet using Golden-i. Instead, they say the computer is designed for information snacking, which is marketing-speak for a tool that allows you to jump around and collect information from a variety of sources and simultaneously and instantaneously communicate with your co-workers.

Kopin, which specializes in ultra-small displays for, is currently targeting Golden-I for large businesses and government agencies. They see Golden-i as a powerful tool for first responders, field service technicians, military operatives, medical professionals, security personnel, construction site managers and other people who work in time-sensitive and complex situations. But consumer-grade products might be closer to reality than you think.

Keep reading, and you'll see how Kopin managed to cram the power of a computer into a lightweight, skull-hugging profile. This melding of man and machine could change everything.


Your All-Seeing I

This is a svelte machine, yet it packs the processing punch of a 600MHz computer.
Courtesy Kopin

A Golden-i grants you geek powers galore, on the go. Of course, so do other modern devices, like smartphones, tablets and laptops. What Golden-i does is wrap similar functionality into a hands-free design that lets you zoom around your work area, taking care of a multitude of tasks without the need to constantly grab for a computer or a smartphone that you left in your vehicle or on the ground.

The possibilities of this system are limited only by your imagination. But to highlight its selling points, Kopin offered up many possible use cases for Golden-i.


Construction project managers can use the device to coordinate and share information. While on a complicated construction site, let's say you have questions about how to set a particular I-beam. You could call or text the architect, of course. But instead, you point the Golden-i's camera at the problem so that the architect can see exactly what the problem is, and she can walk you through the solutions.

For security-minded applications, Golden-i might be an indispensable tool. At large, crowded events, security personnel can share chatter, view security camera footage, pan and zoom security cameras on command, and access facility maps and other critical information on the fly and then share that information with colleagues.

Similarly, law enforcement and military might access records of suspects, record and document suspicious activities, and coordinate tricky tactical maneuvers. Golden-i also helps team members keep track of each other and monitor physical well-being.

Need neurosurgery insights? Now you can get it without even putting down the scalpel. Surgeons could stream live video of their procedures to other medical professionals, who might then weigh in with their advice and suggestions.

Anyone who uses a handheld computer might benefit from Golden-i. That includes manufacturing and inventory workers and supervisors, utility service technicians, heavy equipment operators and many others. More than 200 companies around the world are already deploying Golden-i to their employees.

Consumers stand to benefit, too. Digging in your garden? With Golden-i, you can have a conference call while planting beets. Or you can dictate your memoirs or check your email. People with a whole range of disabilities can use Golden-i as a voice-activated Swiss Army knife of sorts. And it's all possible thanks to some bleeding-edge hardware and software.


Golden Spectacle Specs

Yes, it’s either mildly terrifying or downright geeky-looking. But Golden-i is a tool, not a fashion accessory.
Courtesy Kopin

Even in an age where smartphones offer the power of a full-sized computer in the palm of your hand, it's no small feat to fit an entire computer onto a cranium. Kopin enlisted some heavyweight partners to pull off this task, including Motorola Solutions, Texas Instruments and Microsoft, to name a few. The result is a mishmash of advanced hardware and software.

The heart of this machine is a 600MHz Texas Instruments CPU, which is paired with 512 MB of RAM, as well as 512 MB of internal flash storage, onto which the operating system (Windows CE 6.0) is embedded. A microSD slot means you can increase storage capacity up to 32GB.


There are multiple options for wireless connectivity, including Bluetooth and low-power WiFi. Those let you connect to the Internet or local networks, or even engage a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse. A mini USB port is also good for a mouse or for data transfers.

A rechargeable lithium-ion is what keeps Golden-i's eyes open. Kopin says that the device should work for about one 8-hour shift before it needs some shut eye.

The really attention-grabbing part of the Golden-i, though, is its display. This 800 x 600 pixel LCD display is mounted to an arm that swings up and out of the way, or down in front of one eye when you're ready for it. The display is miniscule, but Kopin's optics produce a 15-inch virtual display that appears 18 inches in front of your eyes and doesn't block your line of sight or peripheral vision, which is critical in a chaotic or dangerous environment.

Golden-i is made to fit comfortably under a hard hat, and you can switch the display for either the left or right side of your face, whatever is most comfortable for you.

Within the display, you'll see a graphical user interface controlled by voice or the gestures of your head. The speech recognition software is VoCon3200, from Nuance Communications. And motion sensing is courtesy of the 6-axis, real-time position tracker developed by Hillcrest Labs.

A near-ear speaker, as well as to microphones are integrated into the device's frame to let you communicate with other people. You can connect an optional camera, too, that will capture stills or high-definition, live video of the scene around you.

Lumped together, all of this hardware weighs only between 3 and 6 ounces. That's a lot of computing power jammed into a package that won't strain your neck. On the next page we'll show you more about how the pieces come together for a breakthrough product.


Revolutionary Eyes

The Golden-i is only for businesses now, typically technical or complicated professions that require a lot of coordination or information. But very soon, consumers will get their hands (and heads) on the fun, too.
Courtesy Kopin

If you've used any sort of product with voice-activated commands, such as a smartphone, you know that voice-recognition systems can be, well, finicky and frustrating at best. Kopin is betting that Golden-i's voice-recognition system will overhaul your opinion of voice input.

Kopin says that the voice-recognition software is so advanced that it understands commands 99% of the time, and that the microphones work accurately even in environments with a lot of ambient noise. Jeff Jacobsen, senior advisor to Kopin's CEO, says that you can wear Golden-i into a deafeningly noisy bar, speak in your normal voice, and the device will have no problem understanding your command. Currently, it works with 26 languages but that number will climb to 50 in the near future.


The key to the accuracy is Kopin's mutating algorithm, which works in tandem with Nuance's recognition software. As you speak to Golden-i, that algorithm actually learns how you pronounce vowels and consonants. Within the first 30 commands or so, it has a very good idea of how to link the sound of your specific voice with specific commands, no matter which language you speak or what sort of accent you may have.

The voice system's accuracy learns quickly in part because it's context driven. As with a regular computer, there are only so many commands available to you on any particular screen. Golden-i knows this, and it learns to link certain vocal sounds to each successful command on a particular menu.

The gesture detection system is ultra-accurate, too. Inside Golden-i is a 4mm cube containing three accelerometers, three gyroscopes and a magnetometer. Together they track your head's motion so closely that you can guide an on-screen cursor to a single pixel.

Kopin skipped cheapo Web cams for Golden-i. If you so choose, you can select cameras with image stabilization, infrared vision and other high-end options. Right now, each headset costs around $2,500. But Golden-i is an evolving product and you can expect to see more affordable versions, including one that may run on Google's Android operating system.

These days, Bluetooth headsets, smartphones and tablets are the face of mobile computing. Perhaps the next step is a head-mounted computer. With Golden-i, you might soon have a totally hands-free way to complete almost any computer-assisted task you can dream of.


Author's Note

Admit it. Like a lot of other readers, you might think the idea of a head-mounted computer is too far-fetched. Not only will the input system be awkward, but the device itself would make you look ridiculous in public. Even in the privacy of your home, that geeked-out headwear might frighten the cats for days.

But let's make the assumption that Golden-i really is as universally useful as its creators believe. That kind of digital power might trump any fashion faux pas. Smartphones and tablets may be all the rage right now, but hands-free computing might just be the next revolution.


Related Articles


  • Golden-i Product Page. "Golden Insight." (July 13, 2012)
  • Golden-i FAQ. "General Questions." (July 13, 2012)
  • Greenmeier, Larry. "Scientific American's Annual Gadget Guide: 10 Reasons to Fondly Remember 2011." Scientific American. Dec. 7, 2011. (July 13, 2012)
  • Jacobsen, Jeff. Senior Advisor to the CEO and Golden-i Program Manager. Personal Interview. July 11, 2012.
  • Kopin Corporation Inc. "Motorola Solutions and Kopin Corporation Announce Agreement to Develop Hands-Free Wireless Computing Headset." Nov. 22, 2010. (July 13, 2012)
  • Microsoft white paper. "Kopin Golden-i Head-Mounted Display Delivers True Hands-free Mobility." (July 13, 2012)
  • Miller, Paul. "Motorola Shows off Kopin Golden-i Wearable Computer." Feb. 23, 2010. (July 13, 2012)
  • Pirillo, Chris. "Motorola Head-mounted Computer Gen. 2 Kopin Golden-i." (July 13, 2012)
  • Quick, Darren. "Golden-i Bluetooth Headset with Virtual PC Display." May 11, 2009. (July 13, 2012)
  • Sorrel, Charlie. "Motorola Golden-i, Virtual Display for Outdoor Types." Feb. 16, 2010. (July 13, 2012)
  • Spoonauer, Mark. "Kopin Golden-i: What It's Like to Wear a 4G Headset Computer." LAPTOP Magazine. May 10, 2012. (July 13, 2012)