Improved optics could help the metaverse grow as big as the internet

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With the metaverse projected to reach $800 billion in revenue from social media advertising, as well as hardware, software, and live entertainment capabilities over the next two years, significant hardware enhancements are needed today for tomorrow’s realistic visual experiences.

The concept of living in a world created digitally has been imagined in countless Hollywood films depicting people seeking to escape reality and dive into an alternate universe. Until recently, this virtual world was widely regarded as a vehicle for more immersive gaming experiences, but now the concept around a metaverse has evolved drastically into a huge opportunity for wealth – and companies are already starting to invest in it.

As the year 2021 drew to a close, a letter from then-Facebook, now Meta’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, sparked a global conversation about the future of immersive technology and what’s possible in the metaverse. In the announcement, Zuckerberg discussed how people can do almost anything in the company’s redesigned platform. “Get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create … you can instantly teleport as a hologram to be in the office without commuting, at a concert with friends or in your parents’ living room to join talk,” wrote the CEO and chairman of Meta.

Yet many are left with questions about what exactly the metaverse is and how it could or could affect daily life. While it can often mean different things to different people, the metaverse is a shared virtual space and the fusion of digital and physical realities. The New York Times recently described the metaverse as a “virtual reality and digital second life… [where] we would spend a lot of time interacting with our friends and colleagues in the virtual space… we would spend money there too.”

It is important to note that the metaverse can only be realized by the technology that makes it possible. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) provide the primary link to enter this alternate universe. With AR technology, users control a device that is essentially a lightweight, portable or hands-free, immersive and portable computer.

Magic Leap’s technical specifications, for example, offer a wide 50-degree field of view (FoV), high resolution with 1.3 million pixels per eye, a super-fast refresh rate of 120 Hz and support for more than 16.8 million colors. And with their new Magic Leap 2, due out later in 2022, even more massive improvements to numerous parameters are imaginable. AR glasses and their handheld controllers are best used for individuals or teams to work productively in the real world, complemented by high-quality simulation. In contrast, VR technology pushes users into the digital world in a 3D experience that feels lifelike through advanced headsets and controllers. For example, Valve’s hardware uses visual, audio and ergonomic technologies to create a compelling experience for users, including optimization for FoV, dual-element lenses, tilted optics and comfort for long sessions.

In the European Union, 10,000 new jobs related to the metaverse are expected to be introduced by 2026 to help build the new computing platform. Digital spaces where people can visit places and meet other avatars are also selling for huge sums, with a virtual real estate plot recently purchased for $2.4 million in cryptocurrency. The conversation doesn’t end on virtual land either. Just before the start of 2022, a three-story yacht that exists only in the metaverse was also purchased for $650,000, complete with a DJ booth, hot tubs, and two helipads. While the metaverse has the power to be more risky than social media can often be, such as through the ease of misinformation or deep fakes, it’s very possible it also has the potential to become something people quickly become dependent on and a technology that’s pretty hard to live without.

Current setbacks of legacy devices in digital spaces

It is clear that the metaverse will have a major impact on the economy and our lifestyles as its adoption becomes more prevalent. In fact, it’s already there with games like Fortnite, which already had more than 350 million registered users in 2020, and the most recent $68.7 billion news from Microsoft that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc. will begin in 2022. announced. Bloomberg estimates the market size for the metaverse could reach $800 billion in revenue over the next two years through social media advertising, hardware, software and live entertainment.

In order for the metaverse to become truly useful to users in private and professional environments, significant hardware improvements are needed for realistic visual experiences. Traditional hardware such as cell phones and computers do not offer the feeling that comes from innovative hardware, and there are several optical design challenges that must be addressed in order to meet the technological needs of the metaverse. Today, many people are certainly glued to their phones, but most are not interested in holding a small screen at eye level for any length of time.

With the advancement of projection systems, optical sensors, AI, spatial light modulation and precision mechanics, advanced technology is required. With AR glasses, VR glasses or haptic gloves, the virtual world feels real and is directly in front of you compared to using phones, where AR can only be realized in a small field of view and lacks a haptic feeling. With new optical electronic technologies and applications such as advanced sensing, which is important for gesture recognition, and displays that enable transformation from the real world to the virtual world and for content visualization, more realistic interactions within the metaverse are possible.

The evolution of Holographic Optical Elements (HOEs) also allows for a more realistic and immersive experience due to their lightweight, thin form factor and low cost in 3D displays. Legacy devices do not have the ability to provide impactful connections between digital and physical worlds that are seamless and interchangeable.

Hardware innovation for a future in the metaverse

The future undoubtedly includes technology that will always evolve. While the software is almost here, manufacturers who are a one-stop shop and have the experience in creating new and inventive hardware will enable companies to overcome many of the expected hardware hurdles to enter the metaverse with an innovative solution. to enter glasses.

Working with a trusted manufacturing partner who has established global experts in optical systems and technologies in developing these innovations is critical. Accessing the metaverse is also a challenge, as there is a need for AR/VR solutions that are affordable for billions of people. This requires a well-established understanding of engineering, design and manufacturing to provide complex, high-volume optical and cost-effective solutions.

The importance of the hardware’s compact form factor, accurate field of view (FoV) adjustment, high resolution and wider FoV needs starts on the production floor with precise optical alignment. To satisfy the viewer, an ultimate experience will be hardware that provides comfort through social skills, visual perception and portability, as well as immersion through resolution, gestures and haptic interactions.

With the right improvements in optical technology, sensing and display, the metaverse is likely to become as big as the internet in the future. And with more than half of the world’s population, or more than 4.5 billion people, estimated to have internet access, that’s a lofty but plausible goal.

Simon Schwinger, business enablement, Jabil Optics Germany GmbH

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