Researchers from Nokia and several universities have created a cylinder about the size of a tube of lipstick that provides an eye-level display for quick, discreet access to messages, news and updates.
When not in use, it can be worn as a pendant or tucked away in a pocket.
The prototype of the cylinder is dubbed Loupe, so named because it bears a resemblance to the little magnifying glass that jewellers use to inspect stones, 'MIT Technology Review' reported.
With the Loupe, researchers suggest, the obvious act of holding it up to your eye, rather than gazing into the distance as you would with a head-up display, makes it easier to signal to someone that you are using it.
This could make people around you more comfortable, since they know whether or not you are paying attention to them – a common concern with devices like Google Glass.
"By having a handheld device that is in front of the eye only when it is used, we provide a very strong signal," said Kent Lyons, a principal research scientist at Yahoo Labs and paper co-author who conducted the work while working for Nokia.
"Just as it is pretty obvious when someone is using their phone, the same is true of Loupe," Lyons said.
The Loupe prototype is three centimetres wide, with a circular hole at one end that users look into to see a small, circular floating display.
Four rings of copper-coloured touch electrodes encircle the device, and an actual jeweller's loupe is included near one end for manually focusing the image.