People have been talking about display technology embedded in a pair of glasses for years, and it’s looking like they may not be that far away. Microdisplay companies are doing good business building mini-screens for digital cameras and mobile phones, but the idea of wearable heads-up displays is where they expect the big money to come from.

Imagine having a 17-inch screen constantly at your disposal that lets you look up information online, check your e-mail or watch a movie–and that isn’t attached to a laptop.

Soon, thanks to the burgeoning microdisplay industry, you probably will.

Small liquid crystal displays are already ever-present on our cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players and PDAs. But scientists and startups alike have figured out how to make tiny wearable screens–with diagonals of less than half an inch–project what looks like a lifesize screen floating in space just a couple of feet from your eyes. These devices permit the wearer to remain totally engaged with their environment, able to see everything around them. The trick is in the magnifying optics on top of the display, which creates the illusion of a large, legible monitor that moves with you when you move your head.

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