AR optics maker WaveOptics has announced a manufacturing partnership with Goertek, one of the VR industry’s leading manufacturers. The deal will enable mass production of WaveOptics’ waveguides for integration into AR headsets which the companies say could be market-ready at a $600 price point in 2019.

China-based Goertek is not a widely recognized name within the VR industry but the company has quietly become a key enabler, providing manufacturing services behind some of the most prominent VR products on the market.

Now, as Goertek looks to play a similar role in the growing AR space, the company has announced that a partnership with WaveOptics which will enable Goertek to offer mass produced AR optics, either as individual components to be used in other AR headsets, or in their own ODM products.

AR optics are often a large contributor to the cost of an AR headset, and with the partnership the companies say they will be able to enable market-ready AR headsets in 2019 at a price point of $600.

WaveOptics is a designer of diffractive waveguide optics. Waveguides can enable extremely thin optics by using structures within the lens which can redirect light in arbitrary directions. In addition to thin optics, the waveguide’s capabilities mean that the display source itself can be mounted in a way that makes an AR headset much more compact than would be possible with other approaches, like Meta 2’s fishbowl optics.

Image courtesy WaveOptics

Waveguides are seen as a promising approach to delivering truly glasses-sized AR headsets which are thought to be key to taking the technology mainstream.

WaveOptics announced that it had raised a $16 million Series B investment last year, and claims to have raised $25 million to date. In the newly announced Goertek partnership, WaveOptics stands to clearly demonstrate the claimed scalability of its approach to manufacturing affordable waveguide optics using a lithographic approach.

According to the company’s website, its current optic, the ‘Phlox 40’, offers a 40 degree diagonal field of view across a 16:9 aspect ratio. That’s in the same class as devices like HoloLens and Magic Leap, which lack a wide enough field of view to be particularly immersive. Assuming the Phlox 40 is the optic that Goertek will be offering through the partnership, it’s likely that it will initially see more use in smartglasses than true AR headsets.

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WaveOptics expects to be able to expand the field of view of their offering at some point in the future, but pushing beyond 50 degrees has been a challenge for most waveguide technology to date; in the VR industry, a 90 degree field of view is considered the minimum by many for high levels of immersion, but surely even smaller fields of view can be useful and immersive if paired with the right content design.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Steve

    $600 sounds like the cost is moving in the right direction and perhaps this can make AR more mainstream (I hope.)

    I had a lot of hope in CastAR. I wish that would have made it to production. Perhaps some rich person out there can buy up the rights and get it to market? I wonder what was the final hold up for that (since its release seemed so close?)

    • brandon9271

      It was a cool idea but requiring the retro reflective material made it’s applications limited. Plus, projectors have a limited focal range and are supposed to be perpendicular to a surface. I’m not sure how it was supposed to work if the reflective surface is at an angle or at varying distances as you move your head. It would need some sort of autofocus and that still wouldn’t solve the angular issue.

      • Steve

        Brandon, all good points.

        I think they had it working pretty good (but not perfect) already based on those who have tried it. The retro-reflective material was pretty cheap but I agree that because of that requirement it’s not going to be the AR many want but I think it would be great for table top games, CAD and 3D Model previewing, etc. The tech was supposed to be pretty cheap so I think it could have done well.

      • I’ve seen videos of the material in use and it’s not a mirror like you’re thinking. The material actually reflected light back in the direction it came, regardless of the angle the material was at or the light in question.

  • Vegeta785

    $600!? Not bad.

    • Hivemind9000

      I wonder if this will just be for the headset/projection piece of the puzzle? They haven’t mentioned the CPU/GPU unit that would drive it.

      • Vegeta785

        Ah

      • Steve

        Good point. So the $600 price point may not be something to be excited about (just yet.)

      • Konchu

        To me they have done decent job with VR on mobile chips. And it seems AR needs less performance as with a lower FOV that doesnt need stuff rendered on every pixel of usable screen so complexity can be greatly mitigated. I imagine the CPU intense part with AR is mapping the world. But I have seen solid cell phone AR so I am optimistic.

        I am personally excited with Apple an Google through in some Smart glasses with AR even at 40 degree it will be cool and revolutionize how we consume media.

  • Graham J ⭐️

    Waveguides are seen as a promising approach to delivering truly glasses-sized AR headsets

    No they’re not. Waveguides are a stopgap at best; they only solve one main AR problem and create more of their own.

  • oompah

    Thumbs up
    waveguide is the future