SAN FRANCISCO – Feb. 6, 2019 – Leti, an institute of CEA-Tech, has developed a novel retinal-projection concept for augmented reality (AR) uses based on a combination of integrated optics and holography. The lens-free optical system uses disruptive technologies to overcome the limitations of existing AR glasses, such as limited field-of-view and bulky optical systems.
TVs and smartphones that project digital images emit light all around them, as quasi-isotropic sources. Because the images are projected generally over the air without directivity, many viewers see the same image. In typical AR glasses, images are transmitted close to the eyes (high directivity) by a microdisplay that includes an optical system and an optical combiner.
These microdisplays create a small near-to-eye image, which is transformed by the optical system, enabling the user to see it despite the short focusing distance. The combiner superimposes the digital image to the viewers’ vision of the real environment.
CEA-Leti’s innovation is a transparent retinal-projection device that projects various light waves to the eyes from a glass surface. Images are formed in the retina by the interference of light waves, which eliminates the need for optical systems or combiners. The light propagating in the air doesn’t form an image until it interferes precisely in the retina.
CEA-Leti presented its results Feb. 6 at SPIE Photonics West 2019 in a paper titled “Integrated Optical Network Design for a Retinal Projection Concept Based on Single-Mode Si3N4 Waveguides at 532 nm”.
The project focused on the design and numerical simulations of integrated Si3N4 optical components and the optical circuit at λ = 532 nm. It required building blocks for designing an optical integrated circuit capable of creating an array of emissive points. Starting with single-mode waveguides to efficiently transport light around the circuit, many other components were designed to manipulate light in different locations. Components for extracting the light, such as diffraction gratings, were also designed and simulated. The team minimized losses of different parts of the circuit, such as waveguide-bending areas, to increase energy efficiency of the system.
CEA-Leti’s integration of the device and its use of a holographic layer also allow creation of compact AR glasses with a larger field-of-view than existing systems, while the transparent retinal projection device allows ambient light to pass through the device for enhanced AR applications.
“Combining integrated optics and holography is a new research area for the scientific community developing display applications,” said Basile Meynard, a Ph.D. student and lead author of the paper. “It is also a way to imagine a display device that works more as a data transfer system than as an imaging system.”
The novel approach will require further development before it reaches the commercialization stage. In the medium to long term, the retinal projection concept is expected to support more compact and higher virtual-image quality applications similar to existing AR glasses.
This research project builds on CEA-Leti’s many years of development of micro-displays for near-to-eye displays, such as organic LED technologies (OLED) and liquid crystal devices (LCD). More recently, the institute has made significant strides in the field of inorganic LED display manufacturing.
“Our teams are continuously looking for potential disruptive technologies that could pave the way to new families of display devices down the road,” said Christophe Martinez, optical senior scientist and project leader in Leti. “The investigation on retinal displays is part of this exploration of future optical solutions.”
About CEA-Leti (France)
Leti, a technology research institute at CEA Tech, is a global leader in miniaturization technologies enabling smart, energy-efficient and secure solutions for industry. Founded in 1967, Leti pioneers micro-& nanotechnologies, tailoring differentiating applicative solutions for global companies, SMEs and startups. CEA-Leti tackles critical challenges in healthcare; Leti’s multidisciplinary teams deliver solid expertise, leveraging world-class pre-industrialization facilities. With a staff of more than 1,900, a portfolio of 2,700 patents, 91,500 sq. ft. of cleanroom space and a clear IP policy, the institute is based in Grenoble, France, and has offices in Silicon Valley and Tokyo. CEA-Leti has launched 60 startups and is a member of the Carnot Institutes network. This year, the institute celebrates its 50th anniversary. Follow us on www.leti-cea.com and @CEA_Leti.
CEA Tech is the technology research branch of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), a key player in innovative R&D, defence & security, nuclear energy, technological research for industry and fundamental science, identified by Thomson Reuters as the second most innovative research organization in the world. CEA Tech leverages a unique innovation-driven culture and unrivalled expertise to develop and disseminate new technologies for industry, helping to create high-end products and provide a competitive edge.