Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are rapidly growing technologies that are changing the way we interact with the world. VR allows users to experience a computer-generated environment as if they were there. In contrast, AR superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world.
VR and AR status and challenges
Both VR and AR are still in their early stages, but there is a lot of excitement and investment in these technologies. With applications in gaming, entertainment, education and training, VR devices continue to improve and offer a growing library of VR content delivering more immersive experiences. On the other hand, AR glasses are considered more practical for everyday use as users can still interact with the real world while benefiting from an enhanced digital experience.
In terms of design and performance, VR and AR headsets are facing several main challenges to which new solutions are actively being developed by headset designers and component manufacturers.
- Weight and size: VR and AR headsets are often bulky and heavy, which can make them uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
- Field of view: The field of view of VR and AR headsets is still limited, which can make the experience less immersive.
- Image quality: The image quality of AR headsets is still not as good as traditional displays. This is partly because AR headsets need to overlay the virtual images on top of the real world, which can cause some blurring and distortion.
- Latency: Latency is the delay between the time a user performs an action and the time the action is displayed in the headset. High latency can cause nausea and other discomfort.
- Eye strain: VR and AR headsets can cause eye strain, especially if they are used for extended periods of time.
- Battery life: VR and AR headsets require a lot of power to run the displays, processors, and sensors. This can make it difficult to get long battery life for standalone headsets.
Despite these and other challenges, the future of VR and AR headsets looks promising, and they are set to become more powerful, affordable, and user-friendly.
Improving VR and AR optical performance
Some of the challenges above are related to the optical performance of VR and AR devices. One way to improve this performance is using liquid crystal (LC) cells. However, glass-based LC cells add significant weight and thickness to the headset (especially when a stack of LC cells is required), as well as constraining the surfaces to be flat, which is undesirable when combining these cells with curved fixed optics.
The unique solution FlexEnable has developed is based on flexible LC cells, i.e. cells that are made on flexible substrates. Flexible LC cells improve performance and user comfort in the following ways:
- Lightweight and flexible: Liquid crystal cells are much lighter and more flexible than traditional glass optics, which makes them ideal for wearable devices like VR and AR headsets. They help to reduce the overall weight and bulk of the headset, making it more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
- Tunable: Liquid crystal cells can be electronically controlled to change their optical properties, such as their focal length. This allows for features such as varifocal lenses that can automatically adjust the focus to accommodate different users or viewing distances.
- Adaptive: Liquid crystal cells can also be used to create adaptive optics, which can compensate for optical aberrations in the eye, improving image quality for users with vision problems, such as near-sightedness.
- Ambient dimming: Liquid crystal cells can also be used to create ambient dimming features, which can reduce the brightness of the display in bright environments. This helps to prevent glare and improve contrast, which can make it easier to see the virtual content.
- Biaxially formed: Liquid crystal cells can be biaxially formed, which means they can be curved in two directions, like the surface of a sphere. This makes them ideal for the complex curvatures required in VR and AR optics.
- High transmission: Liquid crystal cells have high transmission, and allow a lot of light to pass through them. This helps to improve the brightness and contrast of the image.
- Low power: Liquid crystal cells are low-power, which is important for wearable devices that need to be battery-powered and worn for long periods.
In addition to these benefits, FlexEnable’s liquid crystal cells are also manufactured using a low-temperature process, which helps to reduce the environmental footprint of manufacturing electronics.
Our technology can significantly improve the optical performance and comfort of VR and AR headsets and is already being adopted by leading AR and VR brands. As this exciting technology continues to develop, it is likely to become even more widely used in these devices.
To find out more about flexible LC cells, contact us.