Optics in AR and VR: Now and next

A brief overview of the year so far in AR/VR and optics, with a look to the future.

Ross Hookway, Marketing Executive

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We are halfway through 2023 and it has already been an interesting year for AR and VR – new devices have been announced, new partnerships have been formed, and there have been some very busy industry events.

In this blog we will give a short overview of the year so far in AR/VR and optics, and a look to the future with analyst predictions, and examples of existing and future devices.

Predictions revised

The flurry of activity this year has had industry analysts revising predictions and updating figures as they look at the current landscape and into the future. Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) have suggested that display panel shipments for AR and VR devices will rise sharply in the next two years, and may reach 119m Units by 2028 – assuming two panels each (one per eye), this is approaching 60m devices. In terms of revenue, Statista forecasts a combined $21Bn for business-to-consumer AR and VR hardware by 2027.

A long-awaited announcement

The announcement of Apple’s Vision Pro has pushed augmented and virtual reality to the forefront of consumer minds again. That said, Apple have been reluctant to use these terms – the Vision Pro is not referred to as a headset and there is little to no mention of augmented, mixed or virtual reality – it is strictly a ‘spatial computing’ device. However, the launch price sits towards the top of the current range for consumer devices, at $3499.

Strong sales figures across device types

Sony’s PS VR2 launched early in the year and reportedly sold over 600,000 units in its first six weeks, surpassing its predecessor and showing that there is a clear market for console-based VR.

According to CNBC, Xreal shipped 100,000 units of its see-through Air glasses in four months and expects to double that figure shortly. The device sells for $379, almost a tenth of the proposed Vision Pro price, and claims to provide a similar spatial computing experience if paired with the company’s ‘Beam’ connection device.

Despite a lack of official sales figures, in November 2021 analysts at AR Insider extrapolated from earnings calls and quarterly results that Meta’s Quest 2 mixed reality headset had likely sold over 1.4 Million units in the most recent quarter.
It has recently been reported that this figure is now far higher, boding well for the recently announced Quest 3.

Displays and optics come into focus

Increasingly, display specifications and optical designs are being referred to in device marketing and announcements. High performance in this area is of interest to consumers, who are willing to pay more for a premium experience. For example, taking three devices we have previously discussed:

The Apple Vision Pro will feature a ‘specially designed three-element lens’ paired with microOLED displays, with prescription optical inserts to be available from Zeiss.

Meta have confirmed a ‘40% slimmer optical profile’ for the Quest 3 (rumoured to be the same pancake optics as the Quest Pro, an enterprise-grade headset, and paired with LCD displays).

For the Xreal Air, optical comfort is a selling point, with a claim as the first consumer AR glasses to receive TÜV certification for ‘low blue light and flicker free design’.

For our team at FlexEnable, it is exciting to see optics becoming a key part of device specifications as we have been busy developing ultra-thin and lightweight biaxially curved optics. In our recent blog, The advantages of flexible liquid crystal optics for AR and VR devices, we took a look at how FlexEnable’s flexible liquid crystal technology can enable tunable lenses and ambient or pixelated dimming for AR and VR.

Looking ahead

As we move into the second half of the year and towards 2024, we look forward to more news and reviews of the many new devices available, as well as even more announcements – it will be interesting to see how the AR and VR optics market begins to shape itself in response to consumer demand for even better features, designs and experiences.

If you’d like more information about our AR/VR optics, contact us at info@flexenable.com