DigiLens, a developer of transparent waveguide display technology, says it’s working toward a waveguide display which could bring a 150 degree field of view to AR and VR (or XR) headsets. The company expects the display will be available in 2019.

Founded in 2005, DigiLens has developed a proprietary waveguide manufacturing process which allows the company to “print” light manipulating structures (Bragg gratings) into a thin and transparent material wherein light can be guided along the optic and be made to project perpendicularly, forming an image in the user’s eye. While DigiLens isn’t the only company which makes waveguide displays, they claim that their process offers a steep cost advantage compared to competitors. The company says they’ve raised $35 million between its Series A and B investment rounds.

DigiLens Founder & CTO Jonathan Waldern| Image courtesy DigiLens

While DigiLens’ displays have primarily been used in HUD-like applications, the company is increasingly positioning its wares toward the growing wearable, AR, and VR industries. At AWE 2018 last week, DigiLens Founder & CTO Jonathan Waldern told me that the company expects to offer a waveguide display suitable for AR and VR headsets which could offer a 150 degree field of view between both eyes. He said that a single display could be suitable for AR and VR modes in the same headset by utilizing a liquid crystal blackout layer which can switch between transparent and opaque, something which DigiLens partner Panasonic has developed. A clip-on light blocker or other type of tinting film ought to be suitable as well.

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Key to achieving such a wide field of view will be condensing the display down to a single grating, Waldern said. Until recently the company’s displays used three gratings (one each for red, green, and blue colors), but DigiLens recently announced that their latest displays can use just two gratings by splitting the green channel between the red and blue layers.

Image courtesy DigiLens

As waveguides are limited by the refractive index of the optical material, moving all colors into a single grating will allow multiple gratings to instead be used to transmit multiple slices of the image along each layer and then be aligned during projection, offering a wider field of view than a single grating could support.

While DigiLens plans to make this wide field of view waveguide display available in 2019, it will take longer until we’re likely to see it in a commercially available headset, since it will be up to another company to decide to build a headset using the display. And while DigiLens doesn’t make headsets themselves, it’s likely that it will develop a reference headset as it has done for its other displays.

Image courtesy DigiLens

With its current dual-grating display, DigiLens has partnered with smart helmet company Sena to offer its MonoHUD display (25 degree diagonal FOV) as a HUD for motorcyclists. That product will soon launch priced at $400, which DigiLens says has been made possible by a new “inkjet coating manufacturing process,” which brings improved visual quality and “significantly less cost,” so there’s hope that their wide FOV display could reach consumer price points as well.

Image courtesy DigiLens

The company is also presently developing a reference headset for what they call EyeHUD, a mono display in a glasses-like form factor that’s designed as a smartphone companion device.

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  • Vegeta785

    Interesting.

  • polysix

    good to see more developments in this space. Things are really starting to hot up with this tech!

  • Denny Unger

    What would the resolution be at 150fov and what is the refresh rate? Because if its not 90hz and very high resolution, it might be a good first step but its not really viable for VR.

    • Jorgie

      I think AR is much more forgiving than VR since being able to see the real world helps mitigate many of the things that bother people and cause nausea.

      • benz145

        I think the opposite actually — having a 0 latency background makes any latency of the augmented visuals more apparent.

        @denny_unger:disqus good questions. Considering that they use microdisplays, it should be easier to achieve high resolution (than compared to what we see with macrodisplays in VR headsets today), though I’m not sure which will have the cost advantage. I believe the refresh rate is simply a function of the microdisplay used, but I will reach out to hear what DigiLens has to say.

        • Baldrickk

          Any latency would be more apparent, but as @disqus_Y46TwpeiPw:disqus said, you can see the real world through AR glasses and that keeps you grounded – it’s more like using a laggy AR app on a mobile phone, and that intruding on what is otherwise a perfectly normal world view than low latency in VR where your world view gets out of sync with what your body thinks should be going on.

          I’ve experienced this with the Hololense, and unlike some early rift dev kit demos, there was no nausea or sense of “wrongness” – just an irritation factor.

  • oompah

    This is the future