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3D-printed optics provide prescription AR/VR lenses

10 Feb 2021

WaveOptics and Luxexcel set to reveal results of collaborative effort at forthcoming SPIE AR/VR/MR digital conference.

Two optical component innovators have teamed up to create augmented reality (AR) glasses that can be tailored to an individual’s eyesight prescription.

UK-based WaveOptics and Netherlands company Luxexcel, which specializes in 3D-printed optics, say that they will unveil a module integrating the technology at next month’s SPIE AR/VR/MR Digital Forum.

“The module enables technology companies to manufacture AR prescription eyewear in a normal form factor similar to today’s conventional eyewear,” say the two firms.

Prototype samples of the module are scheduled to become available for customers from April onwards, with all types of optical prescriptions catered for.

Encapsulated waveguide
The module, manufactured with Luxexcel’s optics production platform, features a fully encapsulated waveguide within the curved body of a 3D-printed prescription lens.

“Luxexcel lenses can address hyperopia, presbyopia and astigmatism with monofocal, bifocal, trifocal or progressive lenses,” the company told optics.org. “In AR lenses we can therefore address the same needs in the real world and the virtual world.”

WaveOptics, which has developed AR waveguides based around an input and output diffraction structures, has previously agreed supply deals with major glass manufacturers Schott and Corning.

“High-quality images are maintained because the waveguide remains completely flat and an air gap is created during the printing process,” explain the two firms. “The 3D printed structure also provides an accurate mounting for the projector, ensuring perfect alignment when assembled into an optical module.”

By integrating the waveguide into a 3D printed lens, the resulting eyewear can be made thinner, and weigh only half that of conventional AR/VR lenses. The approach also protects the waveguide from dust and water.

Guido Groet, Luxexcel’s chief strategy officer, said in a company release: “About 70 per cent of the adult world population today need vision correction to see their best.

“Providing consumers with a single device that integrates both their prescription requirements, as well as smart technologies from leaders such as WaveOptics, is a prerequisite in enabling the adoption of smart glasses by the mass consumer market.”

Prism Award finalist - again
WaveOptics CTO Phil Greenhalgh added: “The combination of WaveOptics’ Katana waveguide, the thinnest and lightest waveguide on the market today, with the complete encapsulation provided by Luxexcel’s printed lenses creates an incredibly compact and robust solution that will withstand real-world use.

“This partnership provides a solution for two of the major product planning challenges all of our customers face: how to address prescription accommodation, and delivering a robust waveguide in a form factor that can go into a consumer product.”

What this will mean in terms of cost for the prescription AR/VR eyewear remains to be seen. “The expectation in the industry is that consumer smart glasses will become a full replacement for today’s eyewear and provide the same function as traditional eyewear plus the smart function,” says Groet. “This will of course not happen overnight, but the assumption is that consumer pricing will reflect this.”

The two companies are set to show off the new prescription module for the first time at SPIE’s forthcoming AR/VR/MR digital forum, scheduled to take place 28-30 March.

The event, which also features invited talks from industry heavyweights including Magic Leap and Microsoft Hololens - among many others - will see Groet and Greenhalgh take part in a “virtual fireside chat” to discuss the partnership and their respective technologies.

Meanwhile, WaveOptics has been short-listed for a Prism Award at SPIE’s Photonics West event, which is also taking place in the form of a digital forum. Nominated in the “vision technologies” category this year, WaveOptics won in the same category last year.

Synopsys, Optical Solutions GroupTechnoTeam Vision USA Inc.EKSMA OpticsVR/AR AssociationDIAMOND SADataRay Inc.Cobolt AB
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