A Failed XR Startup is Again With Compact Optics That Change Immediately Between AR & VR

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AntVR, an early VR startup which struggled with a number of XR headset initiatives that in the end didn’t discover traction, has reemerged with novel optics which may immediately transition between AR and VR modes.

Based in 2014, AntVR is the China-based VR startup initially behind an early crowdfunding marketing campaign for a PC VR headset (which didn’t in the end catch on) and a newer crowdfunding marketing campaign for an AR headset which wound up tanking the corporate after failing to boost sufficient cash to get the headset out the door. The corporate claims it has since drastically shrunk its workers and picked up some R&D work which earned sufficient cash to refund backers of its failed AR headset.

And now the corporate is again with one thing that’s really fairly attention-grabbing. At CES 2023, AntVR was exhibiting off its ‘combined waveguide AR optics’, which makes use of a novel strategy to maintain a slim profile, whereas on the identical time together with a dimming characteristic to immediately swap between see-through AR and full VR modes. Though the corporate demonstrated their tech working in a pair of glasses frames, AntVR doesn’t plan to fabricate its personal headset this time round, however as an alternative is hoping one other firm will license the optical design and combine it into their very own headset.

AntVR was exhibiting three completely different sizes of its optics, a 6mm thick model with a claimed 56° field-of-view, a 9mm thick model with an 85° field-of-view, and a ten.5mm thick model with a 120° field-of-view.

AntVR’s 120° field-of-view prototype | Photograph by Highway to VR

Naturally, essentially the most visually immersive amongst them (the 120° FoV) was essentially the most attention-grabbing to me, and it additionally stands aside from the opposite two as a result of it makes use of two shows per-eye (otherwise you may name it two halves of a show, per-eye). Close to as I can inform, that is the way it works:

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Diagram by Highway to VR

There’s primarily half of a show above the attention, and half of a show beneath. Each photographs are guided by means of the lens, then fused to type a single picture as the sunshine heads towards the attention. It’s a neat strategy as a result of it means the width of the entire show pipeline can primarily be reduce in half, which is how these optics handle to remain comparatively skinny whereas offering a large field-of-view. Granted, at 10.5mm, these are positively nonetheless thicker than glasses lenses (which different corporations have achieved), however actually extra compact than many birdbath optics that we see with top-mounted shows.

And the AntVR optics have one other little trick up their sleeve: an prompt dimming perform which lets you swap between clear AR and full VR on the press of a button.

Whereas the dimming didn’t reduce out 100% of the incoming gentle, it was positively up there at possibly 90%, which supplied an efficient backdrop to deal with the digital content material in entrance of you with out being distracted at what’s on the opposite aspect of the glasses.

This type of dimming isn’t new (nearly actually achieved with LCD), however it ‘s attention-grabbing to see it in motion and picture the chances of a future headset that may embody this prompt switching performance.

The AntVR prototypes have been somewhat crude, and there’s quite a lot of questions left to be answered earlier than figuring out in the event that they’d be really sensible in a headset; issues like most transparency, distortion of the actual world, color-reproduction, energy consumption, value, if they are often canted, and the way a lot of a seam between the 2 photographs will probably be obvious in real-world use (the demos at CES have been mounted in place, so there was no head-tracking to check with). And admittedly, one severe potential problem with this setup is how a lot it could distort the consumer’s eyes when see by outsiders—no person needs to stroll round with that ‘coke bottle glasses’ look.

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Nonetheless, the compact form-factor spurred by the half-and-half show format, and the mix of prompt opacity switching makes these fairly attention-grabbing and one thing I’ll be retaining my eye on.

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