MSFT optics and MEMS discussion

Waveguides vs Laser Displays: What You Need To Know


In this article we will make a comparison between waveguides and laser to holographic combiners. In doing so we will also look at North (formerly Thalmic Labs), their business success, and their IP, and place that into the context of the greater smartglasses market, and near-eye optics IP.

What The Reader Will Gain

This article is not meant to be a scholarly treatise, but rather an accessible overview, providing the reader with a baseline understanding of the competition between waveguides and laser displays, and how advances in the field of optics are changing the landscape in the consumer smartglasses market.

Now Let’s Look At Laser to Holographic Combiners

Retinal lasers were pioneered in near-eye optic display systems by MicroVision, but their combiner was a more basic beam splitter. A collection of Swiss companies perfected the use of a laser reflected off of a holographic combiner, into the wearer’s eye. A holographic combiner uses a similar technique as a holographic waveguide: a series of micro-mirrors are holographically exposed into a lens, and a laser is directed—typically using a MEM Chip with a nano-scale mirror mounted on a dual-axis gimbal—to reflect the imagery into the eye.

Where Have Laser to Holographic Combiners Been Deployed?

Laser displays are “having a moment,” most notably with Focals by North—which employ a laser to holographic combiner display, and have recently launched to much fanfare and success.
After initial work by MicroVision, laser displays saw more recent advancements coming out of Switzerland. A startup named Lemoptix developed some of the most advanced micro-opto-electromechanical systems (MOEMS)—essentially a laser and nano-mirror projection system—and Composyt Light Labs then employed Lemoptix laser projector into an RGB composited near-eye optics display module. Subsequently Intel acquired the combined companies.

h/t flyingmirrors