Today we’ve launched another industry first at Photonics West; Katana – the industry’s thinnest and lightest waveguide. This launch is not just an achievement for us as a company, it pushes the boundaries of what’s possible for augmented reality headsets, bringing mass market ambitions closer to reality. Here are some commonly asked questions we have answered to shed some light on our latest product launch.
What makes Katana and the next generation of waveguide platforms so important to the industry?
To put it simply, Katana solves an industry-wide problem. There are several key challenges to overcome in order to make AR wearables ready for the consumer market. AR wearables have struggled to balance image quality with stylish, affordable headset design suitable for everyday use. Overcoming the challenge of placing a clear crisp image overlaid onto the real world without obscuring user’s vision and which can be seen in daylight is not easy. Coupled with this, giving our customers the flexibility to design the AR headset or smart glasses of their choice, to give their own customers the experience they want.
Katana’s thin, light design unlocks the potential for true mass market commercialisation as it enables a new range of form factor designs for smart glasses and AR headsets. As 5G and connected devices become mainstream, we expect to see an exponential rise in investment in the AR wearables market, especially in the consumer electronics sector.
Why has the industry struggled with this balance and how has WaveOptics been able to achieve this where others have not?
Creating the technology to match and exceed customers’ expectations is challenging. However, we created our waveguides with design flexibility and mass manufacture in mind, without compromising on quality of the image. We made sure that we retained a large eye-box or viewing area in which to see the digital image, plus our waveguides are inherently flexible – they can be built into any AR wearable suited for any head size or shape. There are a number of trade-offs that customers need to consider when designing an AR wearable and striking the right balance of form factor, field of view and eye-box for example will all depend on the customer’s needs and their use case.
With mass-market adoption on the horizon, where do you see the AR wearables industry heading?
Today, there are a number of examples of AR wearables being used in an industrial setting, where there is a clear business case for increases in efficiency and productivity. However, over the next few years, we expect the AR wearables market to expand into the enterprise and consumer sectors. Consumer electronics businesses have announced their plans to integrate AR into their offering, whether through social media or other applications. We are also already seeing businesses demonstrate where AR wearables could enhance the enterprise offering, with smart glasses being used as an additional computer screen or for employee training for example. Beyond that, we see the consumer market, which could initially be smart glasses tethered to a mobile phone, that become untethered in future years…
Finally, when can we see the Katana waveguide and when will it be in mass production, ready to be integrated into AR wearables?
We are looking forward to showing Katana at Photonics West in San Francisco on the 3rd and 4th February, and again at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February.
While we cannot disclose who will be the first to put an AR wearable using Katana on the market, we are sure that it will push the boundaries of what consumers thought were possible with AR wearable technology.
To request an interview with a WaveOptics spokesperson about our technology or the AR wearables industry, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org