AviatorCast Episode 32: Hangar Talk w/ Aero Glass: Augmented Reality HUD for Pilots


Today’s Flight Plan

What will the future of aviation be like? Chances are, it’ll look a lot like the product that today’s guest, Aero Glass, is developing.

You’ve heard of Google Glass, most likely. You’ve also heard of Iron Man. Well, what if those same ‘in-the-face’ heads up displays could be available to general aviation pilots to give them all sorts of information?

With something like Aero Glass, it’s completely possible. In fact, it’s already becoming a reality.

Listen in to hear more about this fascinating technology, and get a glimpse of where the future of aviation is headed.

Useful Links

Aero Glass Website (Watch the Video Here)
Aero Glass Support (FAQs)
Great Links to Other AeroGlass Interviews


Aero Glass- Jeffrey Johnson

Huge thanks to Aero Glass (Jeff) for joining us on the show to tell us about this awesome new technology. We’re looking forward to seeing what comes of this!


Big thanks to Atrasolis for providing the great music for our podcast. Please check them out on their Facebook Page or SoundCloud and get the music you’ve heard for free.


Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.

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Jarvis, sometimes you got to run before you can walk. This is AviatorCast episode 32!
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff! Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators, you’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. Flying takes us so many places, visiting family, going on vacation or landing that important business meeting. For me though, one of my favorite destinations is the aircraft itself. I still marvel and appreciate the blessing of flight. There is truly nothing like it. I am the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this, the 32nd episode of AviatorCast. I’m really excited to have you here. I’m so glad that you come back episode after episode to join us for a new and exciting topic. We have fantastic guest today but before we get to that, we have a review coming to us from iTunes. This comes from FerdinandAndrankovich, I hope I pronounced that right, from the United States. He says “Awesome, I was looking for something like this. Five starts. Thank you so much for dedicating your time and experience like this. Really cool. I’m about to go through my instrument checkride and this is helping me think of aviation the whole time. Really nice.” Thanks Ferdinand. The pleasure is all ours. We are really excited to have you here.
Now, if you want to leave a review, you the listener today, you can do so on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it. That’s really all we ask of you if you enjoy this show and that helps others know about this podcast, and then maybe, just maybe, I will share your review on air.
So today, we have a very interesting guest. At the beginning of the show, you heard my intro, you’re probably wondering what it is, and I think I said “Jarvis, sometimes you got to run before you can walk.” That comes from Iron Man. This particular episode today is closely related to Iron Man. Now, how is that possible? So, do you remember in Iron Man when he was in the suit, and really, that’s a full-on helmet right? So he would need some way to look outside but he had that heads-up display inside that he could basically look around and see stuff. Well today, we are going to talk about a technology that is available today that is still being developed, but it’s available today that can basically do this in a cockpit for you.
It will have all sorts of stuff already available, stuff like airports, navigation aids, ADS-B traffic, your flight plan route and waypoints, airways, and then some geographic points of interest. Already those things are available and then there’s going to be more stuff available in the future and really the sky is the limit. Your creativity starts to go wild and you can think of all these things that can be displayed there. But basically it’s this 3D world, it’s this 3D representation of the outside world and information that you can get as a pilot that is then displayed on some glasses that you wear, much like Google glass and that you can view.
So without further ado, I think the people behind what is called Aero Glass explain this a lot better than I can. So let’s get right to this interview, this hangar talk interview with Aero Glass.
Now, special hangar talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, we are honored to have Jeffrey Johnson with us today from Aero Glass. How you doing Jeff?
Jeff: I’m good. How about you?
Chris: Doing fantastic. So, I saw you guys at Oshkosh. You were actually a couple booths down from someone that I was helping out, and you have a very, very unique product, we’re going to get into that today and kind of talk about this very futuristic thing that you guys have. First, I want to know a little bit more about you and how you kind of molded yourself in aviation. Tell us a little bit about your past, your education and where you are in aviation right now.
Jeff: Right on. So yeah, I’m the vice president of products here at Aero Glass so I really handle the interface, talking with the customers, the beta users and sort of helping the development team prioritize what features we’re going to be adding. I’ve got a background in GIS. I’ve been a software developers for 20 years now and worked in defense contracting space for the last several years and left recently to start this project with my co-founders. I went to school at Humboldt State and studied geography and geospatial technology and been doing software development around geospatial mapping stuff for a better part of the decade now.
I’m not actually a pilot. I’ve got probably 100 hours right seat and starting to learn more and more as I go doing testing. I probably logged the most test hours of any of our time. I will probably start my lessons again in the fall. Our main test pilot is just finishing his CFI so I’ll probably study with him. Our founder owns and flies a DA40 and some of the other developers are pilots but I’ve been in love with aviation for a long time and it’s fun to get to work on a startup in the aviation space again.
Chris: Yeah for sure. Looking at this product and the technology, I see that you fit very well into your role and that you’ve had a lot of experience and education in doing what your specific role here is which is the software side, the UI, the UX. All of that is super, super important, so it’s good that you are focused on that while the other guys are maybe more focused on the flying part of it, so definitely nothing wrong with that, that you’re not a pilot, doesn’t mean you don’t love aviation. We get plenty of people in the show that are kind of in that same space. Your stuff is fascinating so why don’t you tell people just very basic, they’ve never heard of you before. What is Aero Glass?
Jeff: Okay, yeah. So Aero Glass is a 3D-augmented reality application that runs on like Android-based head-mounted display. You probably all heard of Google Glass by now, so the app runs on Google Glass. We actually started our development on Glass but this new device from Epson Moverio, Epson is the printer company and they make this optical head-mounted display that’s quite a bit more capable on Google Glass. The app is basically a personal portable heads-up display that can show like your aircraft altitude, static data, airports, runways, nav aids, waypoints, all that sort of stuff, and also other traffic in the area if they have ADS-B transponder. So you basically look through the glasses and you see outside of your cockpit with an overlay of aviation data.
Normally, pilots are looking down to the chart or a tablet app and they look back up and think in 3D, like there’s the air space over there, this is the route I’m on, you can see other traffic, and with our app, instead of doing that, instead of thinking in 3D, you just see those things augmented on to your normal vision as you look out the window, at your cockpit. Google Glass, I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with that and have seen stuff around that so it’s the same sort of idea. You’re looking at display that’s overlaid on your normal vision and then also looking out. That’s different from virtual reality, something like oculus rift where you’re actually not seeing outside of the glasses. This is actually see-through and so it’s augmenting your normal vision.
Chris: Yeah. To me, when I tested it out which you’re just kind of standing there and kind of looking at a 3D representation when you are in a hangar like we were, but it’s almost like the sci-fi movie. It almost reminds me one of these Tom Cruise movies where he has the headset on and he can see everything as he looks around in the world, he can see everything depicted, and that’s basically exactly what Aero Glass does, but for us it’s not depicting alien spaceships or something. It’s depicting airways, it’s depicting airspace, airports, and we’ll get into some of those more specifics on the things that are available now and things that may come later, but it’s actually displaying information that’s useful to the pilot, and so you can spend a lot more of that time heads up, looking outside, rather than kind of interpreting all of the information that you have into that 3D space.
Jeff: Yeah. There’s been a lot of movies that have this kind of technology mocked up, like Patriot Games, Ender’s Game, and Iron Man and all those sort of things. It’s that same concept but applied to the aviation space, so you’re seeing aviation data as you look out to your window.
Chris: Right. So we’re actually bringing that stuff to a practical application. I was telling you before the show that I think I was half-dreaming last night because I had sent you these show notes at like 2 in the morning, but I was half-dreaming last night, I’m like “Man, is this too far in the future? This just seems like it can’t be real.” And really it is. It’s just interesting that this futuristic thing is kind of making its way into general aviation and it’s really cool, so I’m definitely excited to talk about it more. What are some of the technical aspects that are going on behind the background? So you mentioned the Epson display viewer and kind of how this is like Google Glass. Tell us a little bit more about how that works, maybe from a technical level.
Jeff: Yeah, so the difference between Google Glass and the Epson devices is Google Glass, the whole computer is actually right there on your face, including the battery and all of its antennas, it all resides right there on your face. The Epson device is a bit bulkier and has two projectors so it projects over both of your eyes, and that has a wire that runs down to a pocket computer about the size of your cellphone, and that’s an Android device with a pretty capable processor in there. It’s a lighter pad basically that you use to control the user interface. So basically, you have two HD displays, one in each eye, and the glasses themselves have their own gyro and accelerometer and compass to sense that orientation that your head is pointed in.
And the GPS is in the controller, the hand computer, and the app can also pair with these AHRS, ADS-B devices from level and so those are used to get your aircraft altitude and also the other traffic and they have a much more accurate Waze, 64-channel GPS in them. And so those are the basic component. The technology basically takes now database, we convert that into basically 3D geometries of those things, have a 3D database and send that display out through the projector.
So when you’re looking around the glass and those which direction you’re looking, and will turn the camera in the app to your head direction. Basically like the library we use under the hood is basically like Google Earth or it’s a 3D virtual globe. You can turn on the base map if you want and terrain but usually you run without those things but it knows which direction you’re pointed, where you’re at, and if you use the eye level devices, it will show you the attitude of your airplane. With the sort of experimental eye level devices, you can hook it up to your pedo and get air data and get true airspeed and that sort of things. So yeah, those are the sort of technical aspects. It’s basically Android device that has projectors that project right in front of your eye to show you the overlay based on where you’re looking.
Chris: It almost sounds make-believe but it’s real, it’s happening. And it’s interesting because there are so many of these new technologies that are coming out. ADSB is becoming one of those things that’s just a norm. Every pilot needs to know what ADSB is what you’re getting with ADSB, but to have all of these stuff right here, displayed in front of your eyes without having to look down at instruments is just kind of wild and it’s almost too hard to believe.
Jeff: Yeah, and the interesting thing will be when we can… some of the avionics manufacturers have this connected cockpit, I mean, that’s sort of a Garmin specific term, but they have initiatives or products that they’re putting out where your actual engine instruments, the avionics can put out a WiFi connection, so in the future we’ll be able to show engine information and all kinds of other things that you’d still have to look down to see now because those aren’t displayed, but eventually we’d like to be able to show all that kind of information right in the glass so you never actually do need to look down.
Chris: I kind of imagine a twin-engine airplane right? And instead of kind of a cargo compartment up front, it’s just a full glass bubble or something like that and in the future you almost have just a hand-controller that you control the displays that you’re actually seeing and you can see a lot more out front of the airplane but you control everything just with your heads-up display and that’s what you see. I don’t know, like maybe it could go that direction, it probably will.
Jeff: Yeah, one of the really interesting things we’re doing is there’s a company called Meta up in Silicon Valley and they’re sort of the darlings of the augmented reality world right now, you can check their site out at SpaceGlasses.com. But we started working with their technology as well and that has quite good cameras in the display, and those are used, like I mentioned in something like Iron Man where you’re actually interacting with the user interface with your hands in front of your face and moving things around so you could sort of like reach out and click on an airspace to get more information. Maybe it was a special used airspace so you could click to get the activated hours or things like that, but yeah, so that’s even more sort of futuristic and down the line but it’s something we’re working on and we think it’s really cool.
Chris: Right on. Have you guys tried to use this in a simulated environment, like in a flight simulator yet?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. Currently, we have X-plane mode in the app, so it will pick up the aircraft attitude and position from the simulator. X-plane is just set-up to that already, you just configure which IP address and port you’re going to send the data out to so you just configure and configure glasses and the app just lays the X-plane, so where the plane is at in the simulator, you can just look around at that position and see all the same data you would to see if your aircraft goes up there.
We’ve looked at a couple other simulators out there, Flight Gear. A lot of us come from the open source world so Flight Gear is pretty popular in that open source world, but X-plane, definitely the basics are all set up there in X-plane. You can also record your flights and play them back. You can play back your ILS or broach or something like that and speed it up or slow it down. Those are the kind of two simulated modes. There are several different modes of setting up the app and X-plane is definitely one of them. I’ve logged a lot of time flying that myself so pretty cool.
Chris: That’s really interesting. I didn’t see any of those material yet but I’d be interested videos of that if you guys could capture of that stuff over top the simulator, that would be pretty interesting, but I don’t know if that’s possible.
Jeff: Yeah, we have a sort of rig that Epson has given us to capture the video through the glass and look outside, so we’re definitely… I don’t know how interesting that would be with a simulator because you’d be looking around in your office or whatever but definitely running that in the cockpit to send, basically create a video of what the app sees versus both outside the cockpit and in the app. We’re still working on refining that system with them. The older version of the Epson had the capability to just record video, record the camera and that app at the same time but the little ones don’t and so we’re working on these kind of 3D printed contraption that basically put a consumer grade camera in that and shoot through the projected image and to outside. I’m still experimenting with that, we’ll have to iterate on that a few more times before it gets producing quality video.
But yeah, the simulator, I guess we could do some recording of what the simulator is seeing and looking around, but then in that case, the camera, you’re recording natural camera on the device. It doesn’t line much because you’re kind of just of looking around in your room or your office or whatever.
Chris: So I mean, really what it would is it would demonstrate what you guys do already anyway but one of the great things you had at your booth in Oshkosh and you had it right on the front page of your website Glass.aero and .aero is the extension, it’s not a .com, it’s .aero so Glass.aero, is you have a video there that essentially is kind of what your program will be once it’s fully realized. It’s live action, you have great camerawork and everything and it shows kind of what this all looks like.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. We worked with really good 3D animator on that video and basically took our flight log and the log of the glasses as we’re looking around. He does motion tracking and overlays that stuff on top of it and really what we’re trying to do is set the bar very high for the design and the user interface and work through some of the concepts. We will be making some new clips and running those by the beta-testers and asking, does this display, show the information the way it would be useful to you? So that’s both like a concept video to show where we want to get to eventually but also to just kind of set the bar very high in terms of what the visual experience is like in the glass. Of course you tried the app and you know that this displays many of those same things but doesn’t look as nice as the video does. We’re constantly trying to set the bar high and then achieve that in the software and we’ll keep doing that in an integrative way over the next couple of months.
Chris: Right. It’s just a very good demonstration of what could be and in theory what it is. Even though the technology may not be to the point where there’s the perfect 3D tracking like that and it doesn’t look exactly like that, I’d imagine that as technology catches up, it will look like that someday, so it’s cool to be actually be shooting for that, because it does look really good. I mean, it looks good now even in the glasses but to have it look that way in the actual cockpit would just be mind-blowing.
Jeff: Yeah. I think the guys that do the open GL development are a little scared that we set the bar too high, that they won’t ever be able to make it look that good with the processors, but I remember my first iPhone and remember my smart phones before that and all that stuff just kind of keep getting better, faster, lighter, cheaper over the next several years. The hardware become more capable, bigger field of view, high resolution displays in your eyes, and faster processors so we can do more with 3D.
Chris: Really, the sky is the limit. When you’re talking about technologies like this, we don’t know if someday we’ll just have a contact that we just put in our eye and it’s somehow connected to the contact. We have no idea. These things are possible.
Jeff: Yeah. We did an interview for the EAA’s innovators video series and they asked us, “What do you expect in Oshkosh 2024 and that was one of the things. I think the displays will become so light that they’re a contact or really, really light set of glasses and the processors will be able to do all kinds of stuff that we can’t even imagine today, so yeah it’s definitely going to grow and evolve and mature like sort of like the smart phone market has.
Chris: Great. Well, let’s talk a little bit about what can actually be displayed in Aero Glass. What can be displayed right now? What have you guys implemented with this so far in your beta program?
Jeff: Well, we’re using the FAA’s coded instrument flight procedures database so that has all your basic airports, runway, footprints, navigation aids, waypoints, route structures. We also can pull ADSB traffic from the eye level device. You can actually get traffic on the ground over the internet. We use the API from one of the companies that supplies traffic but that’s obviously not too much of use in the air. You get all that basic data and then also just geographic points of interest like cities and villages and all that sort of stuff. We also have the ILS approach cones, that’s probably the sexiest feature that’s in there now. I guess you probably saw that at Oshkosh.
Chris: I don’t know if I did.
Jeff: Okay, so you can actually look at the approach cones for ILS. Basically we take the localizer and glideslope parameters and create a 3D cone out of that so you can slide through that. Then we’re working on a web-based flight planning apps, that’s pretty simple, just putting your flight plan string and that will load your flight plan into the glass. Those are all the things that are in there today. All the other courses are HUD with the displays of your elevation and heading and roll and pitch and all. Of course those require you use the eye level device to see that. And then like we talked about, there’s the simulator mode, playback mode, things like that, then there’s user interface controls to turn on and off those layers, set the cluttering properties so you don’t want to see every single way point.
So yeah, all that sort of stuff and then the stuff that we’re working on for the future is airspaces, that’s probably the most important thing for us right now and we can actually render those but the real issue now is I fly here in pretty complicated airspace in sunny California and the airspace, there’s so much airspace that it really bogs down the processor and slows down the frame rate so much that it’s not very usable, so we didn’t actually put that into the demo we showed at Oshkosh or set out to the beta testers, so we’re working on optimizing that so we can actually show all the complex air space and color them by colored TFRs or special use airspace, that sort of thing.
And that’s sort of the same story with the elevation. We can show a terrain map now, we use SRTM data, but it can certainly like slow down the frame rate and the processor quite a bit so we’re working on optimizing that. And then beyond that, we’re really going to add other kinds of procedures other than just the ILS and other collision avoidance technologies, so FLARM is really popular in Europe for gliders. There’s also good a pica system and that sort of thing. And we’re also looking pretty carefully at weather. The Sirius XM devices that put out all the weather, that would obviously be super awesome to see, weather in 3D, and then just other dynamic stuff like NOTAM and TFRs and things like that, that’s a little further down the line.
And then all the ground phase stuff. Right now, we just have the runways but adding taxi ways and gates and all that sort of stuff is further down the line and also just the 3D train avoidance, basically like you would see in a synthetic vision system, and adding obstacles, we get a lot of inquiries from helicopter pilots that are particularly interested in obstacles. And probably, the farthest thing out there is the checklist stuff that you saw on the video. We’ve done some basic experimentation with that but it actually would use the camera in the glasses which we don’t use at all otherwise but it has a little small camera in there, but that would really require you put out markers on your instrument panel so that the computer knew where you were looking and where you were touching, and so obviously that’s required to be customized for every instrument panel. We’ll be working on that, trying to set it up so people can upload a photo of their instrument panel and set up the markers and set up how they’d want to do their checklist. I realize a lot of people sort of customize their checklist even from the Manchester’s instructions. So that’s part of the farthest things out, but the other things are improving the user interface. A lot of people think it’s good to use like a Bluetooth keyboard.
We’re also looking at things like integrating with headset manufacturers that support Bluetooth so you could do voice recognition so you could change your flight plan or something with your voice. And then also lots and lots and lots of integration questions. People are asking “Can you integrate with ForeFlight or can you integrate with WingX or can you integrate with this other avionics device I have, so it will be a lot of that coming our goal. Our hope is that we can work with some of the talented manufacturers so you could do things like modify your flight plan on the tablet and send that up to the glass because typing on the glass device is not super easy, it’s a little bit clumsy, so there’s that kind of stuff coming down the road. But at the moment yeah, it’s just all the basic, all your basic static data and we’ve added the ILS approach cones and that sort of stuff that’s very cool and 3D. It’s a lot of stuff. We got a lot of stuff to do. Come a long way and a lot of stuff to do for sure.
Chris: Yeah. Well it sounds like a lot of potential but now and in the future. So why don’t we go through kind of just a regular, everyday scenario. You know all the lingo. You’ve been saying stuff that I’ve been pretty surprised about as far as special use airspace. You know a lot of stuff about aviation.
Jeff: Oh yeah. I know my stuff man. Back in about 2007 or so, I worked in a company that was producing a system for foreign civil aviation authorities, so the equivalent of the FAA in other countries. Each country produces a paper document that has all their navigation information in that, so I built some GIS systems that they use to maintain those documents and databases and so I’ve been looking at approach plates for 7, 8 years now and know what’s going on exactly.
Chris: So take us through a regular flight. Maybe not what the capabilities are today. I mean, maybe that’s good enough just to talk about what the capabilities are today, but kind of your endgame or your first iteration that you’re really going to be pleased about with some of the additions of airspaces and things, what that flight would be like from a pilot’s perspective, so maybe let’s talk about from the ramp up into top of climb.
Jeff: Well yeah. The first set of things is just to sort of visualize your flight plan, so your initial takeoff and climb, if you’re flying IFR, what are your first waypoints you’re going to hit, which vector airway you’re going to join. And then once you get to the top of climb, a common flight idea is just out of Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, take off through north, head up towards LA and look around, like so we have restricted airspace over Camp Pendleton. I guess it’s always on up 1500 feet and above 1500 feet it’s on sometimes and off, so being able to look out over that, see if that’s restricted depends if you’re going to turn and go that way, and just hitting each of your waypoints as you go. It’s kind of like in the video there, if you’re going to land at some airport up in LA, you’d get the ILS, controller tells you to go ahead and pick up the ILS and you just visualize that through all the way to the ground and of course in the process, if you’re getting traffic, if the ATC is letting you know there’s traffic to look for, you should be able to see that.
Again, that’s all dependent upon whether the aircraft in the sky have ADSB transponders. But yeah, you go through all the phases of flight and look out your window and see both your flight plan and again airspaces are particularly important, other traffic is particularly important and then just as you’re flying around in your vector airway or if you’re VFR, just looking around to make sure you stay out of airspace that you’re not supposed to be in.
In the future, one of the things I forgot to mention is we’re really interested in looking at VFR traffic patterns as a sort of heat map. Whenever I’m returning to Carlsbad, we pretty much always turn base and turn final at the same points and really I land a lot also at Oceanside and there, sort of everybody knows to turn base at this one particular apartment complex and then turn final at this other one and sort of stay, don’t go too far out because the neighbors down there complain about noise. That’s sort of like a well-known thing but if you could visualize that in the glass like this is the most common VFR approach pattern.
It’s like in each phase of flight, depending on what’s important to you in that phase of flight, you should be able to see those things, and also of course, all the time, you’re seeing the aircraft’s altitude and your heading in the display, your altitude, if you connect to the eye level device with your Pedo, you get your airspeed. So all of that stuff is heads up all of the time, and then of course you can always just look around and see there’s an airport over there, there’s an airport over there.
One of the things we’ve wanted to add as well which is really, really commonly requested is the frequency, so I wanted to focus on this airport then it should bring up the frequencies and let you know how to talk to the tower or the ground. All of those things, we have all the data to display all those things and now it’s really sort of an integrative process to figure out what should be displayed during each phase of flight and sort of test those assumptions with our beta community.
Chris: I mean, if all of these comes to fruition, it almost makes an IFR rating obsolete with all of these information.
Jeff: Yeah. I think a lot of the old-time guys would not… I mean, there are some interesting threads out there about this particular topic. There’s one on Vance Air Force about our product and there are certainly a segment of old-timers that are like “You should be able to fly with a chart and a watch and a compass.” But yeah, I don’t think it’s a substitute for airmanship but it certainly will put a lot of things that you normally have to think about very carefully and 3D in your head or look at your instruments. You should be able to visualize those things in 3D and really much more easy experience to figure those things out. I wouldn’t recommend anybody substitute it for good airmanship but it certainly will be a great device, great assistive device for aviation.
Chris: Yeah. You always want to have that base setter training so the pilot is safe. It’s actually something we’ve already faced in aviation, having technologically advanced aircraft TAA’s with Garmin, everything and synthetic vision and this attitude that pilots had at that time when all these technology was coming to the market, that they could not have an instrument rating and fly into those conditions, and then the accident rates went up, even though these were brand new airplanes with all these nice technology that was supposed to give them better situational awareness. As long as that base is there, this can be used as an enhancement. I can definitely see that argument in people for sure.
Jeff: Yeah absolutely. Technology is just never going to be a good substitute for basic airmanship. I’m not a luddite, saying I’m not going to use these things, I think they all have their place and it’s sort of up to the pilot and command to use all the tools available to him to improve situational awareness.
Chris: It’s really cool because all of these different things that we’ve talked about are unique and they’re probably things that your ideas and from the ideas of other people, and it’s like this big creative space that hasn’t been really filled yet that you can just throw things in here because as you were talking, I was thinking “Well, what would happen if air traffic control called up, they gave you a vector to approach or whatever, your system recognize what they said and basically built that funnel or the cones or whatever it is for you to go that direction and maybe it was in white, not magenta, then you had to tell the system to activate it. It’s just crazy.
Jeff: Yeah, there’s all kinds of possibilities. I’m really particularly interested in the voice recognition stuff. I think, we talked to Lightspeed and Bose and Clarity Aloft and all those folks at Oshkosh. There’s definitely a lot of stuff that could be done with voice recognition even if you’re reading back things, maybe it doesn’t understand ATC but if you’d read things back carefully to the app, you could change your flight plan, you could, when you get a procedure assignment, all those sorts of things. There’s even cool stuff you could do with directional audio, so you could get an audio clue that traffic is over here before you actually looked over there. So there’s all kinds of stuff that could be done with headsets but also with all kinds of different avionics out there and also with existing tablet apps. It’s really cool. I feel like sometimes we’re the stone soup here, right? We’ve created that base and lots of other people are going to bring stuff to the table that really make you cool but build on what we’ve started, so it’s really going to be interesting over the next couple of years to see what we can add and what other people bring to the table.
Chris: Yeah, that will be exciting. So, we talked about I mentioned the IFR rating thing and how this kind of maybe will make that obsolete. In that same vein, what are some of the human factors, concerns that you’ve heard come up. People have talked about this blocking vision, maybe pilots are focused too much on the data. I mean, really some of the same things that we have in other applications where people were looking at the G1000 too much and they had fixation on it or things like that. I know that you have several of these that people have come up with time and time again. Can you tell us about some of those human factors answers?
Jeff: Well yeah. The biggest thing we hear about so far is eye strain, and some folks just really said their eyes don’t ever get to use to it. They’ve done quite a few hours and it’s really difficult for their eyes, it causes eye strain. A lot of people talk about that with Google Glass as well. With Google Glass especially, you’re looking up into the right of your vision. But most people actually eventually get used to it. I guess that like with anything, a new set of glasses that you get from your optician, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to looking that way.
The most important thing for us in terms of human factors is really the user interface. It’s admittedly kind of clumsy now. I know how to use it quiet well because I’ve logged a lot of hours but I mean for other people, it’s having to turn on and off things that may be distracting, it’s a little bit clumsy, so we’re looking on the user interface there.
But I mean, nobody should really be relying on this as the primary means of navigation now. I guess not enough people have logged enough hours to sort of talk about that issue with being fixated on something electronic versus looking out the window and just flying the effing plane. What is that acronym? FTFP. So yeah, I guess we’ll hear more about that the beta community grows and everybody gets flying. But yeah, we have many things we need today but it’s going to be a long time before people put away their tablet apps or quit looking at their other avionics devices. So eye strain and user interface and that sort of thing are kind of main human factors.
I haven’t really heard much about the blocking vision. It doesn’t seem to occlude your vision too much on the sides. We also get the question all the time about is it comfortable under a headset and actually the frames of the glasses are pretty thin and I wear under Lightspeed now and I’ve done three hour flights, not too bad, not much leakage out of it as well. That I guess, those are the kind of thing. I mean, there’s a whole school of academics around user experience and there’s plenty of papers out there about heads up display, human-computer interaction. We’ll be taking note of those and also just really trying to work with our beta community to make sure that the displays and the interfaces are really, really usable for them. I presume that all the other avionics manufacturers, glass cockpit manufacturers do a lot of user testing as well but I think there’s just no substitute for logging a lot of hours and finding what works and what doesn’t work and kind of iterating as you go, so that’s kind of the tact we’re going to take.
Chris: And you know, that’s one of the things that a lot of general aviation pilots or even pilots in general don’t realize is that there is so much user interface design that goes into everything we experience in aviation, so speaking about that from a human factor’s perspective, when you see the layout of an Airbus or a Boeing or a Cessna or really any aircraft, if the manufacturer has any sense, they would spend a lot of time thinking these things through and thinking how all of these is laid out. And then you’d get into the software side of that where I’m sure there’s a whole team or teams of people at Garmin that do just this specific thing. All they do is they work on little symbols and the exact color of those symptoms and how they interact and what the chimes look like. These stuff, although it’s subconscious to pilots, it’s very, very important because we need kind of the common cockpit so we need to have those commonalities between the different technologies to where it’s not totally confusing going from one cockpit to a different or maybe one heads-up display to a different heads-up display. It’s all kind of common in a way but you guys would obviously have your unique aspects to it too. You would have your unique things that you are doing first perhaps before anybody else has tried them, so you would have had to design those things. That is so important and it’s subconscious to pilots but in the past, it’s really led to a lot of accidents. It’s really great to hear that that is one of your big core focuses.
Jeff: That’s partly my role at the company as well, is to just really listen to the feedback from people that are flying with the app and make sure we listen to what they have to say and incorporate that into the next field as we iterate. There’s all kind of things, like when we pull ADSB traffic, we use kind of standard collision avoidance symbology that maybe ATC would see in a tower but maybe we need to enhance it or add things to that to make it work better in a 3D environment. Of course, looking over at airspaces, what colors do you want those in, how should you differentiate between a bravo airspace and Charlie airspace or whatever. There’s all kinds of those things that probably nobody has ever done before so we’re just going to have to figure out, and at the same time there’s a whole body of common symbology across different platforms that we tried to adhere to as much possible and when that’s feasible. That goes for any kind of software like you said, any software, any interface, human computer interface. It’s really good to just sort of listen to your users and iterate and make sure what you’re doing works for them.
Chris: Which is the genius of your beta program right now and we’ll talk a little bit more about that later and getting that feedback at this early stage. Next question, and I’m sure you get this one a lot. What is the deal with FAA certification, will this need to be certified? Tell us about that.
Jeff: Yeah. So we actually had an FAA inspector at the booth at Oshkosh and he told us basically his own opinion, covered up his name badge. As an inspector he would still consider it a handheld device just like your cellphone. You’re going have to have some primary means of navigation, it’s class 1EFB I guess, but it’s more or less considered like your cellphone. It doesn’t mount to the plane unless you use the eye level AW device and that has to be mounted, it’s actually not certified, so people that sure that are usually in their experimental aircraft, if you want to mount that to your pedo.
But yeah, at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any certification requirements but of course the FAA certainly may have something to say about it eventually right. I mean, I remember flying drums seven, eight years ago and we thought the rules were pretty clear and they came out with some clarification that said “No, this is actually what we meant…” and so then we may see that sort of thing here that there are some clarification that if you’re actually wearing these types of devices, they are going to have something different to say about that. But at the moment, our interpretation in this one unnamed FAA inspector said, they’re treated more or less like your cellphone now.
Chris: Interesting. Let’s hope that trend continues. We talk a lot about aviation and I’m sure that this is going to be one of your main focuses but what other industries are you planning on using this type of technology in?
Jeff: We’ve had a lot of interest from the UAV space and I fly a 3D Robotics X8 myself and do FPB all that sort of stuff, so there’s a lot of interest from there and the kind of lower end hobbyist to semicommercial UAV space. Actually, Epson is also partnered with DJI Phantom and they’re making an app that will run on the same Moverio glasses to do FPB and get your flight information that’s downlinked to show that into display. There are other people working on that. We’ve heard from people, racecars. There’s a really cool project on the web on Kickstarter now that’s augmented reality helmet for motorcyclists that’s been really, really popular. But really, we’re trying to stay focus on the GA market. There are 400,000 pilots in AOPA and we believe that’s the key target market and try not to get derailed from bringing a product to market in that space.
Then of course, you can’t ever do something like this without getting a bunch of interest from the DOD, so we’re hearing for lots of contractors and that sort of thing, but again, just mostly trying to not get derailed from bringing a GA product to market to make this kind of stuff affordable for your average GA guy.
Chris: Cool, and this is actually available right now in beta form at least right?
Jeff: Yeah. We’re doing a beta program with 200 people and we’ve got about 20 spots left. We’re really trying to filter through the responses. We have an online survey that you can get to at the bottom of our website, so we just ask some basic questions about how often you fly and what certifications you may have and what avionics you have or what apps you use. So we’re really trying to filter through those and find people that are pretty tech-savvy and we’ll give good feedbacks. We’ve got about 20 spots left in that and just kind of following up with a whole bunch of people to fill those, so you can go ahead and join that, fill up the survey, we’ll get back to you and set you up to join the beta program if you want to, but yeah, after that, after those last 20 are filled, we will kind of closer it off and just work with those people, so we have kind of a set of people.
Chris: Was that started at Oshkosh?
Jeff: Yeah, it launched at Oshkosh and we sold quite a few beta hardware packages at Oshkosh and then the rest have been done online since then.
Chris: Okay. And what kind of feedback are you guys getting so far?
Jeff: There’s not a lot of people actually flying with it yet. We sent about 20 sets home from Oshkosh and we’ve had some feedback from them and the rest of them are waiting on us to ship and when we get the device, the glasses from Epson, we go through the whole process of upgrading the firmware and installing apps and actually Epson’s asked us to install additional apps, Netflix and that sort of stuff. So we do that and then we do our own quality control, so we’re just going through the whole fulfillment process now. But the main thing we hear is kind of the same thing we heard at Oshkosh which is “Wow, this is totally cool. I want to show my friends. This is the future.” Most people realize we still have quite a ways to go on the development to get everything both really user-friendly but also improve the accuracy of the overlays and stuff like that, but I mean, we’ve had quite a lot of feedback.
Honestly, one issue that we’ve heard a lot about is the gyros seem to drift so they need recalibration somewhat often and so that’s something we’re pretty actively working on to improve that both in the algorithm sense, to improve the algorithms we’re using to refill those gyros, but also looking at other very inexpensive like micro AHRS devices that you’d put on your headset or something like that to get an even better sense of the orientation of your head. So those are the main things and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the forums but it’s really just this first wave of focus that I’ve started flying with it and the next big wave will come here in the next couple of weeks as we start shipping out all the devices that have been ordered.
Chris: I think everyone still is just trying to catch their breath from Oshkosh.
Jeff: Yeah, I’m still answering just an ungodly amount of email every single day so it’s pretty crazy. It was my first Oshkosh and sometimes I’m sending 200 or 300 mails a day which is pretty crazy.
Chris: And you took the time away to meet with us.
Jeff: Yeah no problem. This is fun stuff.
Chris: Alright, so what are some other common questions that you’re getting from pilots?
Jeff: Ah, these are easy because it’s funny how we got our frequently asked questions on the site. So the most commonly asked question is “What about prescription lenses?” We hear that at Oshkosh, online, everywhere.
Chris: You know, just recently, I got my medical renewed and I had to get corrective lenses for the first time so this is actually something that I’d be interested in too.
Jeff: Yeah, so there’s a frame that Epson ships with us plastic frame and you basically take that to your optician and get a set of lenses put it in and it screws in to the frame between your eyes and the projector, so you just take it and get whatever your prescription is. So that’s pretty easy question to answer, and then sunglasses snap on the outside. It comes with two different shades of sunglasses, you snap on the outside. So that’s by far the most commonly asked question.
And the second most common one is about availability of data in specific countries. Interestingly enough, the most commonly, out of our 1500 survey respondents or something like that, the most common country after the US is Brazil which we didn’t necessarily expect. It’s incredible. The population of people that responded from Brazil dwarfs all the European countries combined which is really, really interesting. So we get all these questions. What about data in Brazil? What about data in Switzerland? What about data in Australia? So that’s really, really common. We have a global dataset for airports, runways, nav aids, waypoints, but we don’t routes or airspaces or procedures in other countries than the US so that’s one thing we’re sort of actively working on to either acquire data, we’re talking at ASA and Europe or just producing a database from the paper data or the AIP that these countries published. We’re just trying to do that based on priority so either license the data or produce it ourselves from the paper data. And then there’s also a pretty cool project in Europe called openAIP.net where they’re trying to basically aggregate data for all the European countries in a sort of open way for non-commercial use, so if you’re a GA pilot, you can just use that database.
Data question is the second most common one, and then the other common questions are usually about integration with other devices. A lot of people ask about, what about my Stratus or what about my G1000 or I use ForeFlight, it doesn’t integrate ForeFlight, all those kind of integration question and so we stir all those to the forms. But between those kind of like three types of questions, those are certainly the most commonly asked ones. A lot of people just ask “What do you get for the beta program and the first 200 people get a lifetime data subscription and software updates so we get a lot of questions about that, but those are all pretty answer to easy to answer. We try to steer people to the frequently asked questions but I still answer tons and tons of emails.
Chris: Damn. Well, hopefully you catch up soon, or maybe it will just get worse with your growing popularity.
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, we’ll see. Your listener base is pretty big so maybe we’ll get a bump from that. It seems like the first big huge wave of interest has died down, not really died down, but it just kind of slowed to a steady. There’s a huge wave of interest after Oshkosh and all the media that went out after that, so we’ve mostly caught up with that and just trying to get the first 200 set up and then of course a bunch of business developments, questions, talking to other vendors and stuff like that, so we’re chasing all those things down. It’s barely manageable but we’re doing okay.
Chris: So when are you guys thinking this will be available to the general public?
Jeff: Our goal is by the end of the year. We really want to make sure we deliver a great product. We’re going to work really carefully with the first 200 beta testers, and if that slips into Q1 next year, we’re going to definitely wait until we have a really solid well-tested product before we push it out to the wider market. But yeah, at the end of the year or early Q1 hopefully.
Chris: Well, this is pretty fascinating. It’d be interesting to have Aero Glass and be flying in the bush in Alaska. I think that’d be pretty cool.
Jeff: Yeah, that’d be great. I mean, what data would be useful to you up there, I mean, not much in the way of airspaces, maybe seeing all the airstrips right, that would be the main thing.
Chris: Yeah, well. Airstrips are pretty much anywhere you can land I suppose, but I don’t know. Maybe glaciers, you could put into your future points of interest or something, I don’t know. Watch out for bears.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s the thing, is it’s kind of a generalized 3D engine so any kind of point data or any points of interest data could be loaded up pretty easily so you could just use it… Like I could imagine airlines just using the same sort of technology for their VIP customers, like here you can actually look around and they’ll tell you what you’re looking at outside of the plane, a silly little nap in your seat back, right? There are all kinds of things that can be done. Like I said, it will be interesting to see what develops over the next couple of years, both what we do and what other people bring to the table.
Chris: Cool. So where can our listeners learn more about Aero Glass?
Jeff: Yeah, so the website like you mentioned, just glass.aero, and there’s a mailing list you can sign up for there and we send out every couple of weeks kind of an update. Our blog, we post news on there. Also, there’s a survey if you want to just sign up for the beta program or just get in touch with us, there’s a survey you can fill out.
Chris: So that survey is available to everybody. Anyone can do that?
Jeff: Yeah. We still get all kinds of response to that and like I said, we’re just filtering through that to get the last set of beta testers. And then we have a support, help desk sort of site that has forums on it and anybody can participate in that. It’s support.glass.aero. So there’s some forms on there people ask glass integration questions and anybody that’s interested is welcome to join that. And then yeah, we posted Twitter and Facebook, that kind of stuff as well. And yeah, the website, all that stuff link off the website glass.aero.
Chris: And that’s where you can see the video of all these happening. It’s one thing for us to sit here and talk about it, but all the listeners, you actually need to go and check that out because then you really truly understand kind of the body of what’s being taken on here and what it will eventually look like which is really impressive. Really, seeing is believing.
Jeff: Yeah. Like you got to see it at Oshkosh. I just love all the smiles on people’s faces, everybody from 16-year-old guys just doing their training and they’re with their dad at Oshkosh too. We had Decker Tan come by at the very end of Sunday, and just the smiles on everybody’s faces when they and think about the possibilities because that’s kind of one of the definitely motivating things.
Chris: It was a validation of what you guys were doing in that your booth was always packed with people There are always people just huddled around. When people are at Oshkosh, they’re everywhere and a lot of the booths aren’t that interesting just to be 100% honest. There are some stuff there that probably shouldn’t even be there. So people just kind of mozy on by and they shyly look at stuff and like “Hi,” you know, but they keep walking, but when they get to your booth, everyone just stops walking and they watch that video. It’s like “Wow,” and then they creep into the booth a little bit and then they’ll want to try out the glasses. It’s a good validation of what you guys are doing.
Jeff: Yeah it was really, really cool to see everybody so interested. Like I said, everybody from young to old and corporate pilots to gliders to people who fly ultralights and lightsport stuff and business jets. Across the whole range, everybody is just like “This is really cool,” and that’s a good validation, definitely motivates us to deliver really, really great product.
Chris: Awesome. Well, I know you’re a busy guy. I really appreciate you coming on the show today. I know that the listeners will appreciate this look into the future and I wish you do the best success. Any last words for the listeners?
Jeff: No that’s good. Just, if you’re interested in joining, connect with us on the internet and we’ll get a conversation started. We love to work with anybody that’s kind of an early adopter and we’ll be excited to bring it to the wider market pretty soon.
Chris: Awesome. Well, we wish you guys the absolute best success and getting all these stuff to market. It’s going to be really cool to see.
Jeff: Alright. Thanks Chris.
Chris: I appreciate it Jeff.
Jeff: Talk to you later.
Chris: Yeah, see ya.
Okay, that was a fantastic interview Jeff. Jeff, thanks for joining us. I don’t know about you, but this technology is kind of blowing my mind. I’m still having a problem wrapping around it, but the truth of the matter is that it’s here, the future is here, it’s one of those things that just shows that technology is continually working its way into the general aviation cockpit and to aviation in general and this is quite incredible. I don’t how we didn’t see this coming. I don’t know why we didn’t expect this, but it’s really cool what Aero Glass is doing. I hope you guys choose to go and check out their website and watch the video that shows exactly what it looks like, not exactly it looks like but what it will look like in the future. Glass.aero and you can check out the video there. There’s a lot of great information there that you can get on this current system. I did try this out myself and I was really impressed. It doesn’t look exactly like it does in the video but you definitely get the idea of what they’re shooting for and it’s very, very impressive.
It will be very interesting to see how this works its way into the aviation cockpit and to our general aviation cockpit and how it will assist us as pilots to have better situational awareness. So really, really interesting. I challenge you guys to check that out and if you have time also take the survey that they have at Glass.aero. I believe Jeff said it was the bottom at the page. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us today. This was absolutely fascinating. We’re looking forward to what you guys come up with at Aero Glass and hopefully you continue trying the right direction and come up with some fantastic things. We always look forward to these new technologies that kind of blow our minds. We experienced that with glass cockpits and there’s obviously going to be something next and that takes us into the future, so we’re really excited about what you guys are doing with Aero Glass.
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One Reply on AviatorCast Episode 32: Hangar Talk w/ Aero Glass: Augmented Reality HUD for Pilots

[…] AviatorCast 32 is gisteren weer online gezet. Met een interview van Jeffrey Johnson van Aero Glass. Een soort van Google Glass, maar deze is gericht op data voor het vliegen. Wel heel futuristisch. Bekijk deze website eerst maar eens. Zeer nieuwsgierig. Kijk hier nog maar eens voor een overzicht van de vorige podcasts. […]

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