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Israel’s Lumus, the developer of reflective waveguide technology for augmented reality (AR) eyewear, has introduced its second-generation technology to enable the development of smaller and lighter AR glasses.
The Lumus Z-Lens 2D waveguide architecture builds upon 2D Maximus to enable the development of smaller, lighter AR eyeglasses with high-resolution image quality, outdoor-compatible brightness and seamless prescription eye integration. The AR modules can be as much as 50% smaller.
The new technology will be demoed publicly for the first time at CES 2023, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week. Lumus hopes the tech will be the AR bridge to the exciting possibilities of the metaverse.
“In order for AR glasses to penetrate the consumer market in a meaningful way, they need to be impressive both functionally and aesthetically. With Z-Lens, we’re aligning form and function, eliminating barriers-of-entry for the industry and paving the way for widespread consumer adoption,” said Lumus CEO Ari Grobman, in a statement. “Our introduction of Maximus 2D reflective waveguide technology two years ago was just the beginning. Z-Lens, with all of its improvements unlocks the future of augmented reality that consumers are eagerly waiting for.”
Big functionality, small size
Lumus’ new Z-Lens waveguide architecture maintains the superb image quality and high luminance efficiency advantages of its predecessor, Maximus, but features an optical engine that is 50% smaller. The new architecture also allows for more flexibility for glasses manufacturers to place the entrance aperture in various positions.
This allows for significantly more compact AR optics for natural looking glasses that reduce the weight and bulk associated with many of today’s solutions.
Z-Lens’ new, lightweight optical engine features 2K x 2K resolution and full, vibrant color to offer superb image quality. With a brightness of 3,000 nits/watt, consumers will be able to enjoy augmented reality in daylight through a pair of glasses that – from the outside – are virtually indistinguishable from a non-AR pair.
Lumus’ Z-Lens architecture also allows for direct bonding of optical elements for prescription glasses, which can be licensed and utilized by manufacturing partners. This feature allows consumers to customize their AR eyeglasses to their vision without bulky, heavy inserts, enabling them to be utilized as normal eyewear.
Other key advantages: a smaller micro-projector, a large field of view, and a distortion-free view of the real world. Remarkably, battery efficiency is up to 10 times greater than any other waveguide on the market, and forward light leakage (forward projection) is negligible.
“AR experts call the face a ‘sacred space’ – and it’s quite true. Natural-looking glasses with augmented reality functionality will unlock the consumer market and propel the industry forward,” Grobman said. “Manufacturers will need to create aesthetically-appealing glasses before mass adoption can ever become a reality, and Z-Lens allows them to do exactly this.”
The new bonding feature within Z-Lens also allows for dynamic focal lens integration that helps solve vergence-accommodation conflict (VAC), a visual phenomenon that occurs when the brain receives mismatching cues between vergence and accommodation of the eye.
Critical to a positive user-experience, Z-Lens also eliminates ambient light artifacts on the lenses – a common effect in AR glasses where small glares of light hit the optical display elements when the displays are turned off. And, like the original Maximus, Z-Lens architecture prioritizes privacy by eliminating light leakage, meaning third parties are absolutely not able to see what the AR wearer is viewing.
In a pair of AR glasses, lenses that utilize Z-Lens reflective waveguides will function as the ‘screen’ on which content is displayed, originating from any of a variety of micro-display technologies including microLED, LCoS or laser based micro-projectors, integrated into the top perimeter corner of each lens cutout.
All Lumus reflective waveguides contain a series of ‘cascading’ partially reflective mirrors that guide the signal through the waveguide into the viewer’s eye. These transflective, partial mirrors expand the image along both the “X” and “Y” axes, expanding the image vertically and horizontally. This 2D expansion architecture enables a large field of view, while maintaining a tiny projector discreetly hidden in the temple of the eyeglass frame.
The first prototypes of Lumus Z-Lens will feature a 50 degree field of view, however the company has a product roadmap reaching greater than 80 degrees. Z-Lens can be integrated into finished products that appear virtually identical to standard eyeglasses.
The future of AR
According to Grobman, Lumus’ Z-Lens architecture will play an outsized role in advancing the AR eyeglass market – a category that is at the threshold of rapid growth.
“The metaverse is increasingly becoming a reality, and AR glasses will be essential to participate in it,” he said. “AR glasses are poised to transform our society. They feature better ergonomics than smartphones, novel interaction opportunities with various environments and businesses, and a much more seamless experience than handheld devices. The future, quite literally, is looking up.”
Lumus holds more than 430 patents, with more than 540 additional patents pending, placing it among the world’s top patent holders for AR optics.
Lumus co-developed manufacturing processes with its world class supply chain partners including Quanta Computer Inc. and SCHOTT, to achieve scalability for mass manufacturing. The company’s tech is at the core of several existing AR products including Thales’ Scorpion full-color head mounted display, Augmedics xVision system for guiding surgeons, Lenovo’s ThinkReality A6 released in 2019 as well as Thirdeye’s X2 MR Glasses.