Photonics West Hits San Fran: Optical Technologies on Display

Anne Corning

This week, thousands of professionals in the optics, photonics, lighting, camera, lens, display, AR/VR, and related industries will be gathering in San Francisco for a series of events held by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. The first event (taking place currently) is the 3rd annual Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality Conference, February 2-4 at Moscone Center West. It includes technical presentations, industry talks, panel discussions, a student Optical Design Challenge, courses, and an expo of headsets and hands-on AR/VR/MR demos that you can try out.



At last year’s AR, VR, MR Conference, a highlight was the panel discussion featuring some leading innovators in headsets: moderated by Bernard Kress (Microsoft HoloLens) with VR pioneers including Jason Lanier and Mark Bolas (both now at Microsoft), AR innovator Ronald Azuma (Intel), Mary Lou Jepsen (of Openwater, formerly Google and Facebook/Oculus), and early smart glasses pioneer Thad Starner (now with Google and Georgia Tech).

This year promises to be just as interesting, with talks by Kress, Bolas, Jepsen, and Azuma, along with Edgar Auslander of Facebook, Robert Shultz of Vuzix, Harry Atwater from California Institute of Technology, Amy Peck of HTC Vive, Stefan Alexander of North, Michael Klug of Magic Leap, Tom Emrich of 8th Wall, Hiroshi Mukawa of Sony, and many more. AR/VR headset design, optics, waveguides, projection technologies, human factors, fabrication, and materials are a few of the topics that will be covered. Use of microLEDs and other new display technologies will also be discussed.

Radiant Presents AR/VR/MR Display Metrology

Just yesterday, the AR, VR, MR Conference activities included a technical talk by Radiant’s own Optics Development Manager, Eric Eisenberg. His presentation during Session 2C of the Technical Talks on Sunday, February 2, addressed the topic of “AR/VR Display Optics Measurement and Analysis.” His audience had time to hear his talk, and still catch the Super Bowl LIV kickoff at 3:30 PM Pacific Time!

Two events that were worth watching this Sunday: Eric Eisenberg, Radiant Optics Development Manager (left) presented at the SPIE AR, VR, MR Conference; Super Bowl 54 kicked off in Miami (right) featuring the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. P.S. – Congratulations, Chiefs!

Because head-mounted devices like AR/VR headsets and smart glasses feature displays viewed close to the eye, even minor defects and irregularities can be noticed by a human wearer, potentially interfering with functionality and user experience. The quality of AR displays is particularly important because the virtual image is in constant competition with ambient light, colors, and other elements of the real-world scene. In his presentation, Eric discussed methods to address the unique visual requirements of transparent AR displays, and the use of photometric measurement technology for accurately qualifying the visual performance of all AR/VR/MR systems.

Eric’s presentation focused primarily on the unique requirements of testing AR and MR displays, given their narrow FOV and transparent display substrates. Topics covered included optical configurations, performance parameters, and recent research into testing new types AR optical architectures to match the human visual experience.

Example of ANSI brightness testing of an AR device using a ProMetric® Y29 Imaging Photometer and Radiant’s TT-ARVR™ Software. A Points of Interest (POI) tool in TT-ARVR measures ANSI 9-point locations for luminance values. True-color display measurement image (left) and the same image shown in false color (right) with measurement data in the table at the bottom.

The Action Continues at Photonics West

The second major SPIE event of the week is Photonics West, “the world’s largest marketplace for photonics, optics, imaging, and industrial lasers,” which runs February 4-6 at Moscone Center. More than 1,300 companies will be exhibiting, encompassing technologies such as:
•    Lasers and other light sources
•    Cameras and sensor components
•    Optical components and optical detectors
•    Fiber optic components, equipment and systems
•    Electronic imaging components
•    IR sources and detectors
•    High-speed imaging and sensing
•    Lenses and filters
•    Optical coatings
•    And, last but not least, display metrology solutions such as those from Radiant Vision Systems.

Radiant will be on-site at the Photonics West Exhibition in booth #4282, showcasing our photometric measurement systems that use novel optical and photopic designs to efficiently measure light emitting technologies in displays, lighting, and surfaces.

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AR/VR Measurement Solution Demos

Near-eye (NED) and head-mounted display (HMD) devices have proliferated in recent years in a race to provide new capabilities, enhanced visualization, and improved functional viewing experiences. Augmented and virtual reality devices include industrial AR goggles, lightweight and unobtrusive consumer smart glasses, and immersive VR headsets. Display technologies used in these devices range from OLED and microLED to LCoS and DLP, with fields of view that can be <30° horizontal (for some AR/MR devices) to >100° for immersive virtual reality headsets. NED system capabilities now include foveated rendering, eye tracking, and more.

All device designs cater to the visual perception of the human eye, taking into account pupil size, shape, position, and field of view in their optical specifications. Accordingly, a method for testing the visual experience of displays within headsets should take these factors into account, replicating how the human eye perceives digital projections through any AR/VR device frame and integrated optical design.

As a focus of the Radiant booth, our metrology experts and engineers will showcase all-in-one camera/lens solutions for testing the unique qualities of displays in augmented and virtual reality headsets. With particular emphasis on measuring displays through the headset—as seen by the user—Radiant imaging photometers and colorimeters qualify displays exactly as they are experienced.

Unlike traditional measurement systems, Radiant’s AR/VR Lens system accommodates the diverse viewing geometries of AR/VR devices with a front-located lens aperture that enables positioning the imaging system’s entrance pupil inside headsets and glasses at the same place as a human eye. Applying wide-field-of-view (FOV) optics, the system captures an entire display up to 120° horizontal in a single measurement to evaluate critical performance qualities such as brightness, color, contrast, uniformity, and sharpness of projected images.

Radiant’s AR/VR Lens used with a ProMetric® Imaging Photometer (left) can accurately measure the user experience and field of view from within the headset thanks to its unique lens design, featuring an entrance pupil at the front that mimics the size and position of the human eye. A modulation transfer function (MTF) test image in TT-ARVR Software used to calculate overall image clarity and contrast (right).

The system can be connected to AR/VR device controls to push test images to the headset display, which are captured by the imaging photometer and lens, and analyzed by applying software tests in sequence with images for fully automated display evaluation. Radiant’s AR/VR Lens will be showcased in two live demonstrations at booth #4282; one system measuring a high-resolution, immersive display in an enclosed VR environment, and another evaluating see-through AR projections inside smart glasses.

From booth #4282 at Photonics West, Radiant’s AR/VR Lens will be demonstrated measuring luminance (brightness) and uniformity of the augmented reality display in Vuzix Blade® smart glasses.

NIR Intensity Measurement Solution Demonstration

With the rapid rise of applications of near-infrared (NIR) light for various 3D sensing systems—from automotive LiDAR to facial recognition and eye tracking—there is a need for accurate qualification of NIR light sources that are going to be used in proximity with, or aimed at, humans. Alongside AR/VR test solutions at Photonics West, Radiant will demonstrate its NIR Intensity Lens solution for measuring near-infrared LEDs and lasers.

Using Fourier optics, the NIR Intensity Lens system captures the complete light distribution of near-infrared light sources, ensuring accurate intensity, scope, and format of structured light patterns (dot arrays) used in facial-recognition or eye-tracking applications. The NIR Intensity Lens system captures precise radiometric values of angular near-IR light emissions to +/-70 degrees in a single image without rotating the system or source. 

Example of Radiant’s NIR Intensity Lens (with integrated ProMetric® Y16 Imaging Radiometer) positioned above an NIR-emitting light source to analyze its complete angular distribution from a single position.

The NIR Intensity Lens solution comprehensively evaluates the radiant intensity, uniformity, and scope of bare LEDs, diffuse “flood” sources, and patterns produced for 3D sensing by diffractive optical elements (DOE), which may contain tens of thousands of emission points. The system is designed for precise measurement of 850 or 940-nanometer wavelengths—used by many 3D sensing devices for facial recognition, gesture tracking, and LiDAR.

The NIR Intensity Lens was recently recognized for innovation by the Vision Systems Design Innovators Awards (Silver honoree), Laser Focus World Innovators Awards (Gold honoree), and GLOBAL SMT & Packaging GLOBAL Technology Awards (“Metrology” category) programs.

A complete angular distribution of an NIR light source is captured up to ±70° and used to measure radiant intensity, power, and radiant flux (left). Dot emissions created using a diffractive optical element (DOE) are captured by the NIR Intensity Lens solution and analyzed for angular location, maximum radiant intensity, uniformity, and flux (right). Both images are analyzed in the TT-NIRI™ Software test module.

To learn more, stop by booth #4282 at Photonics West to see how precision imaging technology can improve the efficiency of objective qualification of light-emitting devices in both design and manufacture.

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