AR and VR applications are growing at a fast pace driven by the continued use of smart devices and improved internet connectivity. While the entertainment industry has been a main driver for AR and VR headsets demand, this immersive technology is increasingly being used by businesses for training purposes and to enhance collaboration between people who aren’t physically in the same location. Given its huge potential in almost all industries, it is no wonder that the AR and VR market represents a multi-billion opportunity for both display makers and component manufacturers.
In this blog we take a look at some of the many exciting uses related to AR and VR headsets in particular and how ongoing improvements in optical components can drive further innovation in this field.
AR in healthcare
AR/VR can completely change how healthcare professionals are being trained and assist surgeons with complex procedures. It can create a virtual world where students can learn to perform procedures on virtual patients not being limited by physical resources and proximity. Devices that incorporate AR can make surgical processes more efficient and improve outcomes for patients. For example Microsoft’s Hololens is already used in surgery. By wearing the headset surgeons are able to view patient information while performing an operation.
AR for speeding auto repair
Just like in healthcare, AR headsets can be very useful in other industries too. One example is the automotive industry where technicians can use the technology to diagnose and fix difficult problems on a vehicle. Ford has recently announced that it has been using a hands-free electronic headset, known as See What I See (SWIS), that “allows the technical assistance team to see what the dealership tech is seeing while they work on the vehicle in real time.”
It’s not difficult to imagine, that the potential of this remote-assist technology can go beyond auto repair and be used to fix anything from bicycles to washing machines.
AR in manufacturing
AR headsets have many practical applications in manufacturing where they can be used for employee technical training and to optimise various parts of the manufacturing process. Instructions and graphics can be overlaid onto real-life components and products while workers hands are kept free to execute tasks. For example Airbus has used HoloLens 2 to help designers virtually test their designs and to improve safety and quality.
VR in home renovation and construction
As someone with an interest in home interiors and design, I have been fascinated with how VR technology is helping people visualise spaces and make more informed decisions regarding house building and remodelling. The first time I saw this technology being used was in the BBC Show ‘Your Home Made Perfect’ where home owners were given VR headsets to explore 360-degree renderings of their future homes before they renovate them. Some kitchen suppliers are also offering immersive VR experiences already, and it is easy to imagine that the technology will become an important tool in the construction and home improvements industry in the future.
VR in tourism
The travel industry is one sector where investment in VR technology is gathering pace and it’s easy to understand why. It offers limitless opportunities to access and experience remote locations and activities that otherwise may be out of reach for most. For example Oculus Quest 2, developed by Meta, is said to be ‘one of the most advanced all-in-one VR systems in the market’ taking users to places such as Machu Picchu or Antarctica.
Innovations in AR and VR optics
In order for all these AR and VR experiences to be as realistic and as immersive as possible (and to drive demand), the construction and optical performance of the headsets are vital. The quality of the images has to be perfect while the headsets need to be lightweight and comfortable to wear for the users.
Headset developers are continuing to rapidly innovate towards these requirements. Fortunately, breakthroughs in certain areas mean that AR and VR headsets will only become better. FlexEnable’s Strategy Director, Paul Cain, recently explained in a blog on ambient dimming how new developments in liquid crystal optics can improve AR headsets by allowing the real world’s brightness to be locally adjusted to maximise the contrast of the overlaid virtual image. In addition to better blending the real and virtual world, the used flexible LC-based lenses are thin and light (weighting less than 1 gram). Moreover they can be biaxially formed around other fixed optical components in the stack.
For more information on liquid crystal optics, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.