When most of us think of AR technology, we think of big releases like headsets or controllers. However, these pieces of hardware are made up of smaller pieces that don’t get the credit that they deserve. If you opened up your headset you’d find hundreds of smaller parts. The improvement of any one of these parts improves your overall AR experience.
That’s why it might have slipped under your radar when SCHOTT announced a new generation of high-index glass wafers. The announcement was made last week to less fanfare than a big release from HoloLens or Magic Leap. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be excited.
What’s the Big Idea?
SCHOTT is a 135-year-old German glass manufacturer. The company has a wide range of products but their RealView glass wafers are their biggest contribution to AR technology. The glass is so special because of its high refractive index.
Refraction is the property of light rays to bend when they pass through different media. You might have learned about it in primary school by observing the broken appearance of a straw in a glass of water.
Manipulating the refraction of glass is important in eyeglasses but it’s important in AR technology as well. When you put glasses on, you change the property of the light reaching your eyes. Changing the property of that glass allows you to manipulate the light.
“Full immersion experience is the promise of the AR/MR industry. To realize this, software developers need to have access to an unrestricted field of view enabled by the technical ability to place the virtual content anywhere within the human’s natural area of vision,” SCHOTT Vice President of the Business Field Augmented Reality, Ruediger Sprengard, said in the press release. “But even the most advanced smart glasses on the market cannot yet provide this experience, as their field of view is only about 40° horizontally – limited by the highest refractive index of the image guiding substrate available on the market.”
A higher refractory rate allows devices that use SCHOTT RealView glass to display higher light and contrast. It also allows a wider field of vision. Right now the highest possible field of vision for AR technology and experiences is 40 degrees. SCHOTT says that its new wafers will allow a field of vision as wide as 65 degrees.
The increased refractive index index of the new wafers is a drastic improvement over SCHOTT’s last model, released last year.
What Does a New Wafer Mean for AR Technology?
SCHOTT’s new wafers have a couple of significant impacts on AR technology.
An expanded field of vision means AR experiences can more closely replicate natural vision. It also has an impact on programs that use hand gestures for controls. If you can see more at a time, you can use motion controls more easily.
The higher refractive index of the new wafers also means that the images themselves can be more detailed.
Finally, SCHOTT exemplifies the advancements of AR Technology. A small piece being improved on a microscopic scale drastically improves the AR experience. Further, the pace of these advancements in even so small a piece can seem dizzying.