First impressions of Brilliant Monocle (HUD/AR device)

Jacob David C. Cunningham
5 min readFeb 28, 2023

This product is made by Brilliant Labs

Their documentation

Started writing: 02/17/2023

Notice the OLED display image comes from the top hole under the battery

Introduction

So I was lucky to see this device posted on Hacker News (02/07/2023) and I immediately bought one. Which was lucky because currently they produce small batches and you have to wait a couple weeks or a month to get your device depending on how many people have ordered before you.

As I write this first part, I’m still waiting for mine to ship, it will ship out in a week or two.

What’s cool about this device is it’s programmable. You can change what it does. It has an FPGA, uses micro python through a web-based REPL (potentially easier IMO than say raw C). You can connect to it with your phone and do stuff there via bluetooth. It also comes in a charging case like a pair of ear buds so you can recharge it several times in a day on the go.

Receiving the device/unboxing

02/27/2023

Here you can see the OLED coming from the top

Finally got it. It’s very light and small.

Note that this is one of those things you have to see for yourself, it’s hard to capture correctly on a camera due to reflections/focal length of cameras not matching your eyes.

It’s really hard to convey what you see and I’ve just been making diagrams for scale to represent what I’m seeing.

What does it look like through the Monocle?

This is a hard thing to show. I have a Sony A72 with a macro lens and I find that my phone camera’s macro ability captures the display better (as a human would see it).

taken with android phone, macro mode, really up close/against back of glasses

Example text above in white drawn with:

display.text(“Example text, ALL CAPS”, 0, 0, 0xffffff)

display.show()

The coloring here is accurate regarding barely being able to see your hand behind it
look at this photograph

Another anecdote: looking at a wall 64" away (5.33 ft), the perceived display size is 22" wide

Out of the box functionality

You can connect to the Monocle and program it through the web or app eg. Android/iOS interface through a REPL (pretty much a CLI). You feed in commands with micropython to draw text, lines, etc…

Can read more on their page

Using nRF App to update firmware on monocle more info here

I later found out that you can just update it through the web app. No need to do it by mobile. Mobile app is useful if you want to do it on the go/no desktop.

How’s the fit?

Note that I don’t intend to wear this in public. I’m not a person that tries to draw attention to themselves since I am actually kind of scared of being in public lol. Also I don’t want anything bad to happen to the Monocle.

If you raise the monocle up/down the display is more AR like if it’s in your line of vision

Video

Latest work with Monocle as of 03/17/2023

My use case/future plans

What I want to use this for is when I spend about an hour every night making my dinner. I stand around by the stove and do dishes/wait for stuff to cook/surf the web and listen to a podcast.

I am not an FPGA person or do much low-level stuff currently since I am in the web space for my day job. I work on Arduino/RPi as a hobby so have some familiarity but not really.

My immediate thing that I want is to pull articles and show them on the display.

I’m also thinking about some graphics abstract thing… it sucks to lay out squares manually regarding dimensions/offsets.

The next more advanced thing is to build a HUD menu interface that you control with hand positions/shapes. This will be fun to work on because needs some form of ML to work and I want to get more exposure to that.

Another one is having a dock/taskbar setup on the viewfinder. I have to see through it and get a better idea of what I’m working with. Pushing notifications would be a thing too.

Closing thoughts for this post

This device iteration has no IMU in it. Also compute is limited so keep that in mind for whatever applications you might have in mind. For instance the battery is only 70mAh — about an hour of battery life for general usage.

Regarding binding elements to the frame based on what the camera sees (in lieu of IMU), there could potentially be other methods to do that eg. landmark points.

I would say this is definitely more for tinkerers, people that want to code, are more forgiving of this device’s specs/capabilities. This is not you know an Apple AR device or something worth thousand(s).

Questions or interested?

Check out their discord for more info. (in the first site link above)

Disclaimer

I am just a consumer of this device not affiliated with the company.

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