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Zeiss becomes sole owner of AR/VR developer 'tooz'

07 Mar 2023

German optics giant had originally formed the subsidiary as a joint venture with Deutsche Telekom in 2018.

Zeiss is now the sole owner of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) optics technology developer tooz technologies (sic), after buying out the shares belonging to Deutsche Telekom.

The two German industrial giants had formed tooz as a 50-50 joint venture back in 2018, with a particular focus on AR/VR glasses with prescription vision correction and based on novel curved waveguides.

The change in ownership will see tooz become Zeiss’ “competence center” for AR/VR technology, with a mandate to further drive the development and integration of optics for AR/VR products independently.

“In the future, tooz will also equip optical systems from other manufacturers of AR/VR optics with prescription lenses to place products with an integrated prescription on the global markets,” announced Zeiss.

tooz CEO Kai Ströder added: “In a challenging and exploratory technological environment, we have achieved all the goals and milestones that we set together with Zeiss and Deutsche Telekom.

“Now is the right time to focus on the unique selling points: serial production and visual correction in imaging systems. We will also retain our startup organization as part of the Zeiss Group, to remain agile in this complex and dynamic technological race.”

Reference design
At the recent SPIE AR/VR/MR conference and technology exhibition, held in conjunction with SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco, tooz had showcased its “ESSNZ Berlin” reference design for smart glasses, highlighting the prescription vision correction element.

“The glasses offer a scalable, custom prescription as the core of the solution, not as an afterthought,” said the firm at the time, with Ströder adding:

“Augmented reality glasses without prescription can only serve small niche markets - regardless of which combiner, waveguide or other technology is providing the virtual image.

“That is why tooz develops prescription solutions for both its own proprietary optical platform and for various other competitive optical systems.”

In an invited talk during the event, Ströder pointed out that current AR/VR glasses were overwhelmingly designed for people with no need for vision correction - even though the vast majority of potential users suffered from short- or long-sightedness or age-related presbyopia, or a combination of both.

“Their need for Rx [i.e. prescription] integration shifts AR devices into a medical-grade business environment, protected in many regions by existing stakeholders,” he added.

“For all-day use, consumers expect affordable AR solutions and a secure end-to-end vision correction process with a convenient buying experience. Regardless of the augmentation technology, tooz is enabling medical-grade Rx solutions for various curved and planar combiners.”

‘Ophthalmic wearable’
Launched in May 2022, the ESSNZ Berlin design from tooz is described as an “ophthalmic wearable” with a day-long battery life. The glasses - similar in appearance to regular spectacles, if slightly bulkier - display information in the wearer’s field of view while retaining their main function of individual vision correction.

“The curved waveguide lens is the centerpiece of smart glass solutions by tooz,” said the firm at the time. “With several high-precision, free-form surfaces, and an invisible combiner, the lens guides the light from the monochromatic microLED display in the right temple to the wearer’s eye.

“This allows the user to see a virtual image in its field of view that provides valuable information. The curved waveguide allows for seamless integration of vision correction and thus, ophthalmic smart glasses.

“With the standard process of backside surfacing, the individual prescription of end consumers can be integrated easily in every Rx lab around the world.”

AlluxaIDS Imaging Development SystemsTeledyne LumeneraLASEROPTIK GmbHHÜBNER PhotonicsJenLab GmbHEKSMA Optics
© 2023 SPIE Europe
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