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Photonics and AR-VR


If you are like me you would be surprised to see a link between Photonics, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) while visiting them at the last Photonics West show this year (2020).

Let us start with the definition of AR and VR.

For VR "The concept of VR could be traced at the mid of 1960 when Ivan Sutherland in a pivotal manuscript attempted to describe VR as a window through which a user perceives the virtual world as if looked, felt, sounded real and in which the user could act realistically (Sutherland, 1965)."(1)

AR is a more recent technology defined as: "technological system in which virtual objects are added to the real world in real-time during the user's experience" Milgram and Kishino (1994).

What role is photonics playing in the AR and VR, you are probably wondering?

"Technologically, the devices used in virtual environments play an important role in the creation of successful virtual experiences." Input devices are the ones that allow the user to communicate with the virtual environment and here is where photonics is playing a role but not only, since output devices "among the visual devices can be found a wide range of possibilities, from the simplest or least immersive (monitor of a computer) to the most immersive one such as VR glasses or helmets or HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) or CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) systems."(1)

"To run, an AR system must also include a camera able to track the user movement for merging the virtual objects, and a visual display, like glasses through that the user can see the virtual objects overlaying to the physical world. To date, two-display systems exist, a video see-through (VST) and an optical see-through (OST) AR systems (Botella et al., 2005; Juan et al., 2005, 2007)."(1)

Camera, glasses, and displays are all photonic devices.

According to Europe's Age of light Strategic Roadmap 2021-2027 market growth is forecasted in Healthcare with the adoption of AR/VR systems in medical training.

EU Health