It is no longer necessary to hold a mobile with the hands. How? Thanks to AR or Artificial Reality eyeglasses, it is now possible to transfer the screen of the mobile device to the lens of a pair of eyeglasses. Although this technology was around for a while, the glasses were rather cumbersome and bulky.
Now, Trilite Technologies of Vienna, Australia, has a newer approach to AR glasses that make them look and feel just like normal glasses. According to their CEO, Dr. Peter Weigand, so far, there have been three types of light engine technologies.
The first was the LCoS technology. This is a panel-based technology, and it requires optics with illumination. It is necessary to have a nice, homogeneous, and smooth illumination, and a waveguide must carry the input image. This is not a very efficient technique, and it has a number of optical elements, making it bulky.
The other was the MicroLED display technology. This is semiconductor-based and far superior to a reflective display as it emits its own light. However, it is still a challenge to make the display visible in outdoor applications. And, the two-dimensional display does not scale up when moving to higher FOV or Fields of View and higher resolutions.
The third was the Laser beam scanner technology. This has the highest level of miniaturization. Typically, it has an RGB laser module with three separately mounted lasers as the red, blue, and green light sources. Optics follows the laser module to merge the three beams of lasers into a single ray. A set of MEMS mirrors follows, generating the image scans for the eyeglass display. Two mirrors are necessary, one for the X- and the other for the Y-axis.
According to Weigand, the latest generation of these scanners uses a single MEMS mirror that can move in both x and y-direction. This two-dimensional mirror helps to achieve a lighter and smaller product.
Electronics create the image for display by modulating the lasers. Coupling the image to an optical waveguide allows it to be sent to the display. For this, the laser scanner uses relay optics, a rather large optical element. Coupling the laser beam scanner into the input coupler of the waveguide directly, allows the display engine to be made to a small size. The entire arrangement contains the collimating optics, the MEMS mirrors, and the three lasers.
Trilite Technologies is able to make very small scanners because of its design philosophy. They have designed their scanner such that software rather than hardware handles many of the scanning functions. The other significant contribution to the small size comes from using a single two-axis MEMS mirror rather than one mirror for each axis.
The waveguide contains the optical input coupler as an integral part. This coupler has a pattern of microstructure gratings on its surface, allowing light to enter. The output side, where the light emerges from the waveguide, also has a similar structure. The waveguide conveys the image to the lens and, at the same time, combines the incoming with the generated digital light, allowing the user to see both the digital image and the real-world scene through the eyeglass lens.