Two European companies have developed a waveguide combiner that can accurately display simultaneous 3D content at variable depths.
The development by VividQ in Cambridge, UK, and Dispelix in Espoo, Finland, opens up immersive augmented reality (AR) displays where digital content can be placed in the physical world via smart glasses.
The two companies have also teamed up to develop the new 3D waveguide technology for mass production. This will manufacturers of smart glasses and headsets to start AR product roadmaps now.
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Early augmented reality experiences seen so far through headsets such as Magic Leap, Microsoft HoloLens and Vuzix produce 2D stereoscopic images at fixed focal distances, or one focal distance at a time. This often leads to eye fatigue and nausea for users and doesn’t offer the necessary immersive 3D experiences. For example, objects cannot be interacted with naturally at arm’s length, and they are not placed exactly within the real world.
The waveguide combiner and accompanying software are optimised for 3D applications such as gaming. VividQ’s patent-pending 3D waveguide combiner is designed to work in harmony with the company’s software, both of which can be licensed by wearable manufacturers in order to build out a wearable product roadmap.
VividQ’s holographic display software works with standard games engines like Unity and Unreal Engine, making it very easy for games developers to create new experiences. The 3D waveguide can be manufactured and supplied at scale by Dispelix, which already makes see-through waveguides for wearables.
“There has been significant investment and research into the technology that can create the types of AR experiences we’ve dreamt of, but they fall short because they can’t live up to even basic user expectations,” said Darran Milne CEO of VividQ.
“In an industry that has already seen its fair share of hype, it can be easy to dismiss any new invention as yet more of the same, but a fundamental issue has always been the complexity of displaying 3D images placed in the real world with a decent field of view and with an eyebox that is large enough to accommodate a wide range of IPDs (interpupillary distance, or the space between the user’s pupils), all encased within a lightweight lens,” he said.
“We’ve solved that problem, designed something that can be manufactured, tested and proven it, and established the manufacturing partnership necessary to mass produce them. It is a breakthrough because without 3D holography, you can’t deliver AR.”
Antti Sunnari, CEO & Co-Founder of Dispelix, adds: “Wearable AR devices have huge potential all around the world. For applications such as gaming and professional use, where the user needs to be immersed for long periods of time, it is vital that content is true 3D and placed within the user’s environment. This also overcomes the issues of nausea and fatigue. We are very pleased to be working with VividQ as a waveguide design and manufacturing partner on this breakthrough 3D waveguide.”