As 2023 now quickly draws to a close, it’s time to consider what 2024 will bring to the world of photonics, augmented reality (AR) displays and, more specifically, what role TriLite will play in this development.
Jörg Reitterer, our co-founder and CTO, who has been nominated for the 2nd year in a row as Photonics100 honoree, shares some of his insights.
“Before we jump into making any predictions”, writes Jörg, “let’s take a quick look back to reflect on what has taken place in the last twelve months and the effect of this on our company. Firstly, TriLite has taken considerable steps in pushing forward its software-first strategy, and creating a strong partner ecosystem, to set the stage for mass production, market leadership and customer awareness.”
Let’s take a small trip down memory lane. There was one crucial and highly anticipated event that defined 2023 – the release of Apple’s Vision Pro mixed reality (MR) headset sparked accelerated momentum in a market that was already growing rapidly. It is set to easily reach and breach the $1 trillion mark by 2030. As Heinz Arnold, editor-in-chief at Markt & Technik, commented in his article, “Apple is giving not only VR but also AR glasses a huge boost. Most of the components and technologies that are in VR glasses can also be found in AR glasses.”
It’s very well worth highlighting that Arnold went on to say that “the missing element for consumer AR is a suitable display technology”. As I’ve already alluded in Electro Optics, we at TriLite are developing the world’s smallest, lightest and brightest laser beam scanning (LBS) projection displays for high-volume consumer AR and MR applications.
These devices will be just as lightweight as today’s standard eyewear yet will be able to cleanly lay digital content over the environment around us, thereby enabling a plethora of new applications, ranging from communications and entertainment to work and education. I strongly believe that this up-and-coming disruptive technology will create many powerful new applications and can possibly replace and/or augment many of today’s everyday products such as smartwatches and other display systems.
Let’s now focus in on Arnold’s reality-grounding comment, “MicroLEDs have not yet met the expectations originally placed on them; they are too expensive to produce, not bright enough and do not provide sufficient resolution. That’s probably why Apple also uses microOLEDs for the Vision Pro.” Arnold stressed that “Over the last few years, laser beam scanning (LBS) technology has emerged as a promising candidate.” At TriLite, we certainly see LBS as the key transformational technology for cracking the consumer AR glasses market conundrum.
The topic of microLEDs and LBS also came up in the podcast that I did alongside Karl Leahy, Product Marketing Director at ams OSRAM, for the episode “Unlocking the future: Laser Beam Scanning in AR/VR.” My position is that we actually do fully acknowledge that there are other display technologies out there that are suitable for the AR market, and microLED is currently very prominent in the media. It’s a great technology that has its place, but at TriLite we do not consider microLED to have yet reached the point of viable manufacturing readiness.
In any case, what we do clearly see is that LBS is here today, fully matured and manufacturing-ready. LBS provides a light, compact and very bright light engine for AR applications, and comes with a strong, future-proof roadmap. If nothing else, compared to other competing light engine technologies, LBS simply scales far better. LBS is the only available technology that maintains its size and weight whilst incrementally increasing field of view (FOV) and resolution.
TriLite’s software-defined display is a vital enabler of scalability and mass manufacturing. By adopting a “software-first” approach from design, through to device, through to manufacturing, our projectors can be ultra-compact, significantly cheaper to produce and are truly mass-manufacturable. Proprietary algorithms ensure optimum image quality with minimum latency, coupled with low power consumption as a bonus.
It goes without saying that the key for mass manufacturing lies in having a strong partner ecosystem. In 2023, we announced some key additions to our partner ecosystem that have been delivering industry-leading components and subsystems needed for our Trixel® 3 projection display. In May, we welcomed TDK to the ecosystem to provide its tiny MEMS mirrors. In September, we announced our collaboration with ams OSRAM for the supply of their RGB laser diodes. These two new partners have added significant impact to our existing relationships with Infineon, which supplies MEMS mirrors and drivers, and Dispelix, which provides its waveguides.
Looking ahead to 2024, it’s no surprise that I’m equally excited and optimistic about LBS technology and its role in consumer AR devices! Our highest priority in the coming year will be to build upon the 2023 award-winning success of TriLite’s Trixel® 3 (SPIE Prism Award 2023 and AWE Auggie Award 2023) and to enable our industry-leading customers to build high-volume consumer AR devices and deliver the second-to-none user experience leading to wider adoption.
And also, please keep an eye out for big news from TriLite at CES 2024 and SPIE AR/VR/MR 2024, where we’ll be showcasing more of our new reference design form-factor consumer AR glasses, based on our Trixel® 3 platform.
It’s an exciting time for all of us. The next year or two promise to bring major changes for TriLite and the AR/VR industry as a whole. We expect technological advances as well as very strong market growth and customer awareness.
Read more from Jörg: