The Rise of AR/VR Systems and its Impact on Optical Demand

by | Jul 1, 2022 | Custom optics, Optics explained

In 2020, the augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) market was valued at $14.84 billion, and is expected to grow to $454.73 billion within the next 10 years. However, with recent software advancements within the industry, the projected growth is most probably higher. These systems are not just used for gaming services, but are also utilised in other fields such as medicine, engineering, education, etc.

Traditionally, fresnel lenses are used within VR and AR hardware. A fresnel lens consists of a number of concentrated rings, which each consist of simple lens elements assembled onto a flat surface to provide a short focal length. With the rise of these systems comes the rise of new hardware technology, and new optical solutions to solve challenges within AR/VR systems

The challenges are relating to the demanding requirements for human vision, including Field of View (FoV), eye-box (a volume where the eye receives an acceptable view of the image), angular resolution, dynamic range,

Some of the challenges developers have while designing AR/VR hardware systems are:

  • Field of View (FoV): how much of the observable world is visible at one time.
  • Eye-box: a volume where the eye receives an acceptable view of the image.
  • Angular resolution: the ability of a device to distinguish small details of an object.

The surge of hardware development has lead to new optical designs being introduced into the market. Recent push-backs of launch dates also reveal high demand for fast prototyping of concepts, to achieve the optical capabilities required. These new designs focus on compactness, and short, wide components (similar to those used in photography) or also known as pancake lenses. Another optical design that has become more popular is the use of catadioptric freeform prisms. These lenses need to be lightweight and have a low birefringence in order to be acceptable for AR/VR systems. Addoptics offers birefringence levels as low as 5 nanometers.

These lenses also need to have magnification within the centre of the lens. Addoptics’ capabilities are able to manufacture and produce these lenses with design freedom and precision, for prototyping to series production need. For more information on our capabilities, check out our capabilities page.

Many developers chose to use plastic optics for these applications, due to their light-weight and low density which is needed for most consumer electronics. Glass optics do however have a higher optical quality, but that also makes costs higher compared to plastic, specifically polymer optics. Polymer optics also have the advantage that they are more ductile and have better design abilities due to their manufacturing process, and Addoptics offers a process in which designers have full design freedom. Our process also has a manufacturing time of 10-50% faster than traditional manufacturers.

Our post Polymer Optics 101 has a more in-depth look at polymer optics, and Addoptics’ polymer capabilities. Have questions about a project? Feel free to send us an email at [email protected] or check out our data sheet.