AR startup Rokid today unveiled a new AR headset called Rokid Vision 2, which incorporates waveguide optics into an impressively slim package.

To achieve its glasses-like form factor, Rokid Vision 2 doesn’t include onboard computing or power. For that, users can connect to smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles, and tablets, the company says.

Rokid, a Hangzhou, China-based startup, says its Vision 2 headset includes “the world’s leading diffractive optical waveguide technology with a light transmittance of 85% and 40° field of view (FOV).”

Note: If you’re curious to know a bit more about waveguides, check out the Waveguides & Birdbaths primer at the bottom of the article for a brief explanation of the two leading AR optics.

The headset also includes dual integrated speakers and dual microphones, which the company says can be used for hands-free voice control.

Rokid Vision 2 is said to arrive with some first-party software such as its ‘Virtual City’, which showcases the headset’s room-scale simultaneous localization and movement (SLAM) tracking based on its single RGB camera. It also includes a ‘Holographic Cinema’ for 2D, 3D and 360 media consumption, and a 360 immersive space called ‘Fantasy World’.

Currently, Rokid XR software system supports Android and Unity for app developers, and several mainstream hardware platforms, including HiSilcon, Amlogic, and Qualcomm.

Although there’s no price or release date yet, the company says it’s targeting a number of sectors, such as cultural tourism, exhibitions and museums, and the medical and health industry. It’s also ostensibly aiming to appeal to consumers with its focus on gaming, media consumption, and multi-screen desktop displays for the new work-from-home paradigm.

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Waveguides & Birdbaths

Waveguides and birdbath optics are the two most common near-field display technologies currently in use in AR headsets. AR is still in its infancy, and both have their drawbacks. Here’s a quick and dirty primer which we aim to expand in a future article.

Birdbath optics include mirror/combiners that get their name from its spherical structure. Since they use a partially curved surface to reflect light—oftentimes from top-mounted microdisplay—they’re typically much cheaper to manufacture than waveguides, making them a natural choice for companies looking to hit consumer price points.

Simple birdbath optical pipeline | Image courtesy Karl Guttag

They have a comparatively higher FOV than most waveguides, but are also less bright, requiring fairly heavy shading on the exterior glass to filter out ambient light. Birdbath optics can be found in AR headsets such as Nreal Light and Lenovo’s recently unveiled ThinkReality A3 glasses.

Instead, waveguides guide light through a series of thin and transparent structures embedded in the glass or polymer. According to a paper by Microsoft’s Bernard C. Kress, these structures can be “simple prisms, microprism arrays, embedded mirror arrays, surface relief gratings (SRGs), thin or thick analog holographic gratings, metasurfaces, or resonant waveguide gratings (RWGs).”

Simplified view of a waveguide pipeline | Image courtesy DigiLens

Waveguides are more complicated, and generally more expensive to build than a birdbath optics.

Not including some impressively large-FOV waveguides currently in R&D, most waveguide-based AR headsets output a fairly small FOV, generally speaking. Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 boasts 53 degree diagonal FOV, and Magic Leap 1 is said to have a 50 degree diagonal FOV. For comparison, most consumer VR headsets range between 100 – 130 degrees.

Again, we’re working on a more expansive article to give you (and us too) a better understanding of the two major technologies at play in current AR headsets.

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  • kontis

    There was a time when 2″ screen in a cellphone was “good enough” and had a huge value for a lot of consumers.

    There was never a time when 40 deg FOV HMD had value for more than a very tiny niche of users.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    VR wise it was a lousy CES :'(

    • blue5peed

      I suppose it can’t be helped. I think 2020 in general hurt VR. Especially due to the lack of traditional conventions like GDC and CES it could have been a break out year post HLA but covid sucked all the air out of the room.

  • Wow dude

    The first AR company to hit 100° fov or higher will be the Oculus of the AR world.

  • Ad

    I wish these companies would just all slap some manner of decode chip on these devices and support some kind of PC streaming. Maybe when Virtual Desktop is moved to OpenXR. It would give them all a minimum level of usefulness. Obviously they won’t play Alyx unless you work something out for controls and such but at least it would be more straightforward to find content made for AR and just run it rather than have vendor specific options made specifically for mobile.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    As a non-gamer, I look forward to getting a good par of AR glasses. I own the OQ2, which is the 6th VR headset I’ve owned, I’m a bit of a technology whore. But having glasses that make me have digital things in my perceived real world, would be amazing. I was hoping Oculus would of gave the Quest 2 a much better (color) camera to start tinkering on AR…but sadly they used the same junk camera.
    These glasses look nice, although 40 degrees isn’t very impressive.
    I’ll keep waiting for my inevitable purchase of a good pair of AR glasses, perhaps the HoloLens 3 will be priced for consumers.

    • Cragheart

      40 degrees FoV is VERY bad.

  • Craig Bradley

    This article is well intentioned but highly inaccurate. This is a very complex field and this article is more misleading that it is helpful.

    • kalqlate

      This comment is well-intentioned but highly devoid of any useful information.

      • Craig Bradley

        too much to go into but feel free to email me or give me a call if you’d like to discuss. :)

        • kalqlate

          Thanks, Craig! I was just being silly and facetious. However, a single “for example” would’ve given cred to your comment.

          • Craig Bradley

            Fair points! For example, the optic pictured labeled courtesy of Karl Guttag is not a bird bath optic. It’s old version of an updated image I edited myself.

          • kalqlate

            Excellent! Thanks, Craig! I can understand how misinformation like this can be annoying.

  • 40° is the leading value in the industry?? It’s less than magic leap 1, nreal, hololens…

  • oomph

    Finally better optics is emerging