Near-eye displays for VR use holographic optics

July 02, 2020 //By Rich Pell
Near-eye displays for VR use holographic optics
Researchers at Facebook Reality Labs, Facebook's AR/VR R&D division, say they have demonstrated the thinnest VR display to date in a proof-of-concept headset based on folded holographic optics.

Announced as a new research milestone to be presented at the virtual SIGGRAPH conference , the researchers propose a new class of near-eye displays that combine the power of holographic optics and polarization-based optical folding - an approach that could be used to develop future sunglasses-like VR hardware. These two methods, say the researchers, help keep the optics as thin as possible while making the most efficient use of space.

The new optical architecture is offered as being significantly more compact and offering the potential for better visual performance. Such lightweight and comfortable form factors, say the researchers, may enable extended VR sessions and new use cases, including productivity.

The design is demonstrated in a proof-of-concept research device that uses only thin, flat films as optics to achieve a display thickness of less than 9 mm while supporting a field of view comparable to today's consumer VR products. The work, say the researchers, demonstrates the promise of better visual performance, as well: Laser illumination is used to deliver a much wider gamut of colors to VR displays, and progress is made toward scaling resolution to the limit of human vision.

Current VR displays have three primary components: a source of light (e.g., LEDs), a display panel that brightens or dims the light to form an image (e.g., an LCD panel), and a viewing optic that focuses the image far enough away so that the viewer’s eyes can see it (e.g., a plastic lens). As the first two components can readily be formed into thin and flat modules, most of the weight and volume go into the viewing optics.

Most VR displays share a common viewing optic: a simple refractive lens composed of a thick, curved piece or glass or plastic. The researchers propose replacing this bulky element with holographic optics. Like common holographic images, these holographic optics are a recording of the interaction of laser light with objects - but


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