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The Past, Present and Future of AR: Learnings from Kopin’s CEO

22 September 2021

Earlier this month, Insight Media hosted a three-part webinar series presented by Dr John Fan, CEO of Kopin Corporation, providers of critical components and solutions for wearable computing systems. In the series titled ‘AR and VR: The Paradigm Shift to Smartglasses Starts Now’, Dr Fan shared his insights from 30 years of developing AR/VR solutions, and his predictions of what the future holds. It inspired our CEO Darran Milne to discuss the importance of audio and display in immersive experiences and the role that Computer-Generated Holography can play in accelerating the mass adoption of AR devices in a LinkedIn post.

Below, we share a summary of the key points raised in the three-part webinar series by Dr Fan. He began his presentation by sharing his excitement for the future of augmented reality:

 

“For the first time, AR technology allows for the existence of Super Humans”.

Dr John Fan, CEO of Kopin Corporation

 

AR smartglasses offer the ability to enhance and augment human limitations in both hearing and vision. On the practical side, instant access to hands-free information in a mobile environment can prove incredibly convenient. In the future, smart glasses will combine all of our most basic necessities, including eyeglasses, house keys and mobile phones, in one place.

To produce an adoptable model of AR smart glasses, Dr Fan argues that the hardware must come first, then the operating system, and finally the applications. In this generation, smartphones can fulfil multiple productivity and entertainment needs – from fitness and music to personal assistants and GPS navigation. For the next generation of consumer electronics to be successful, hardware developers should aim to take the smartphone functionalities, miniaturise the form factor of the device, and find a way to put the information within our eyesight.

Dr Fan argues that the biggest challenge lies in the architecture of micro-displays and optics that directly impact how compact (or bulky) the device can be. At VividQ, we have identified this as one of the key challenges to the adoption of AR devices (especially AR wearables). Alongside our ecosystem of partner companies, we have demonstrated that Computer-Generated Holography allows for the miniaturisation of optical engines for smartglasses, and as a result, of the entire end-device. You can learn more about VividQ’s partnership with Forth Dimension Displays, one of Kopin’s wholly-owned UK-based subsidiaries here.

Holography is a long term solution to other challenges to digital vision augmentation, discussed by Dr Fan, too:

Depth is a crucial feature of three-dimensional (3D) display: Dr Fan reminded viewers that the human visual system recognises variable focal distances, and therefore expects it in AR devices too. Displays using Computer-Generated Holography project digital content across multiple depth planes, preventing eye strain or discomfort.

Seeing is directional, not 360 degrees: As discussed in the webinar, vision is one of the most difficult senses to satisfy in the digital world, and the way content is presented affects most of the user experience. Thanks to real-time hologram generation and eye-tracking capability in headsets powered by VividQ software and IP, AR content can be displayed in the context of the real environment; and left behind when you move on.

As Dr Fan emphasises, for the success of optical see-through devices, such as AR smartglasses, manufacturers must deliver a comfortable, interactive experience that does not cause eye strain. The ability to switch focus between the real and the virtual world is crucial in achieving this, if digital content must not overwhelm the user. Holographic displays powered by VividQ are able to deliver this thanks to their inherent capabilities to project fully three-dimensional images, and can fulfill all key requirements for mass consumer adoption of AR: human acceptance, technological advance, complete supply chain, scalability, and affordable price.

Learn more about how Computer-Generated Holography can unlock benefits for companies developing next-generation display applications here.