Friday, December 4, 2020
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One Step Closer to Mass Adoption of AR Headsets Thanks to New Waveguide Technology

The waveguides launched by WaveOptics should make AR wearables thinner and more affordable to mass manufacture.

 

AR headsets are still struggling to reach the mass adoption phase, despite positive market insights. They are still uncomfortable to wear and expensive to manufacture. But this is about to change, thanks to the new Katana waveguides launched by WaveOptics at the beginning of February 2020.

What Is the State of the Augmented Reality  Market?

In 2018, the global AR market had reached a value of US$0.35 billion. However, according to PWC estimates, together with VR, it has the potential to reach US$1.5 trillion in the next 10 years.

But, in order to reach this level, AR glasses and devices need to enter the mass adoption phase and become common consumer goods, like smartphones and smart TVs. And WaveOptics is the company that aims to make that happen, through their innovative manufacturing process for waveguides.

What Is New About the Katana Waveguides?

Waveguides are the lenses of AR wearables. They are an essential part of the device. Their shape and size, as a matter of fact, determine the final size, weight, shape, and feel of a pair of AR glasses.

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As mentioned above, the main problems with the mass adoption of AR wearables are both the high price of the devices, as well as the uncomfortable feeling after wearing the glasses for a long time.

According to the specifications, the new Katana waveguides developed by WaveOptics are 1.15mm thick and weigh only 7 grams. It also has a FOV of 30 degrees.

A New Era in Manufacturing Waveguides for AR Headsets

However, the small size and low weight do not represent the only innovations created by WaveOptics. Through its PhD-staffed R&D department, the company has discovered a new, affordable method of manufacturing the waveguides.

This method involves:

  • Production of waveguides on wafers;
  • Coating and curing the wafer;
  • Cutting individual waveguides by laser;
  • Joining red and blue waveguides;
  • Blackening the edges to enhance AR images;
  • Assembling and testing the waveguides for accuracy and visual performance.

This process favors mass production for AR headsets. The waveguides can be produced faster, in larger quantities, and at an affordable production cost.

“Katana is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for augmented reality headsets, bringing mass-market ambitions closer to reality. As the thinnest, full-colour waveguide now available on the market, Katana enables our customers to design new products that can meet the performance expectations of a wider range of consumers, and we can help them do that at the right price point. As 5G takes off and the focus turns to wearables, we are looking forward to seeing what our customers will do with this technology,” said David Hayes, CEO of WaveGuide.

A Full Range of Models for All Use Cases

Apart from Katana, WaveOptics has launched two more models of waveguides for specialized AR wearables. The Vulcan range (3.1mm thickness, 12g weight, 28-40⁰ FOV) is adequate for detailed and complex AR applications. The top of the range, named Odin (2.65mm thickness and 17g weight) supports ultra-high FOV (60⁰) and periphery vision, as well as full color.

The company presented its innovative waveguides for AR wearables at the Photonics West event in San Francisco earlier this month.

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