DigiLens shows better waveguide technology for augmented reality, to be used in Sony AR glasses

The main issue with the HoloLens is its limited field of view, necessitated by the cost and difficulty of creating the waveguide display.

Now DigiLens have shown off a new diffractive optical waveguide technology using nanotechnoloy materials which promise to be larger and much easier and cheaper to manufacture.

DigiLens’ technology can enable “eyeglass-thin” AR heads-up displays for motorcycle helmets, car windshields, VR headsets, aerospace applications such as fighter jets, and AR smartglasses, said Jonathan Waldern, CEO of DigiLens.

“We enable a massive reduction in size and form factor,” Waldern said. “Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact.”

Waldern said the “key enabler for AR is the optics.”

Waldern contends that the display performance of etched structures, called surface relief gratings (SRG’s), as used by Microsoft HoloLens, Vuzix (licensed from Nokia Technologies), and Magic Leap (acquired from Molecular Imprints), are all limited to narrow field of view (FOV), due to the inherent physics of SRG grating interaction.

These other technologies work for small screen display, but have no place in immersive AR or VR “mixed realities,” Waldern said.

By contrast, DigiLens makes precision diffractive optics by photographically recording (not etching) the nanostructures.

The company’s Switchable Bragg Gratings (SBG’s) allow much wider FOV with higher efficiency, in addition to offering a “printable” manufacturing benefit.

DigiLens has attracted strategic investments from Sony, Foxconn, Continental, and Panasonic, along with venture investors Alsop Louie Partners, Bold Capital, Nautilus Venture Partners, and Dolby Family Ventures.

“We think diffractive optics holds the key to AR, but writing millions of tiny optic structures is best done photographically, using nano self-assembly, not expensive precision etching like HoloLens,” said G. Chen, chief technology officer at Foxconn. “We need to break the manufacturing price barrier. With their Waveguide Diffractive Optics, [DigiLens seems] to have overcome most nagging technical problems and we see a very bright future for them.”

Sony plans to use the DigiLens waveguide optics in an upcoming version of its AR smartglasses. That will help Sony develop lenses with a wider field of view and full-color capability compared to other smartglasses available today, said Hiroshi Mukawa, general manager of the AR eyeglass program at Sony, in a statement.

See Jonathan Waldern, CEO of DigiLens, talk about their technology after winning the Best in Show award at Display Week 2016.

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