A British company has developed a prototype pair of augmented reality glasses, which could give Google's Project Glass a run for its money.

The new augmented reality glasses, from Cambridge-based TTP, work by projecting light onto the lens at an angle of approximately 45° from a miniature projector mounted on the arm. The lens is embedded with a “grating structure” that redirects light into the eye.

This means that images and text can be superimposed directly onto the wearer's field of vision when they look straight ahead – unlike Google Glass, which puts a small video screen in the bottom right-hand corner of the right eye, forcing the wearer to glance down constantly.

Meanwhile, TTP’s high speed Switchable Fast Focus lens technology (SwiFT) can alter the focal length of the lens at up to 1kHz, so that objects can be displayed in different planes simultaneously, resulting in a “true” 3D experience.

“Current head-mounted AR technologies have a number of drawbacks including flat or darkened lenses, large cumbersome frames and partially or totally obscured fields of view,” said Dr Roger Clarke at TTP.

“Our new technology overcomes all of these issues using simple LED based optics and completely transparent, curved lenses that opens up a wide range of exciting applications for the emerging AR market.”

The augmented reality glasses are intended to look like conventional glasses. However, FutureTech guru Ian Pearson told Business Weekly that TTP needs a better designer, as the prototype glasses do not look at all cool.

“The Google ones look a lot better even though rubbish by comparison functionally,” he said.

TTP believes the glasses could be used for for leisure and consumer applications, such as ski goggles, running or cycling glasses and interactive gaming. The company is also exploring uses in military, emergency services, logistics and manufacturing environments.

Speaking at the Google I/O conference earlier this year, Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said wearable computers could be also be very useful in many workplaces.

“They could be used regularly for things like taking inventory in warehouses, and for tasks on factory floors and other places where folks need to use computers and their hands at the same time,” Enderle said at the time.

TTP is further developing its technology and plans to licence it to third-parties for a range of applications.