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

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with metaverse is expected To reach $800 billion in revenue through social media advertising, as well as hardware, software, and live entertainment opportunities over the next two years, significant hardware improvements are needed today for realistic visual experiences tomorrow.

The concept of living in a digitally created world has been depicted in countless Hollywood movies depicting people who want to escape reality and dive into an alternate world. Until recently, this virtual world was generally seen as a vehicle for more immersive gaming experiences, but now the concept around the metaverse has dramatically evolved into a massive opportunity for wealth – and companies are already starting to invest in it.

As 2021 draws to a close, one message written by then-Facebook, now Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, sparked a global debate about the future of immersive technology and what’s possible in the metaverse. In the ad, Zuckerberg discussed how people on the company’s reimagined platform would be able to do just about anything. “Get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create… You will be able to teleport as a hologram to be in the office without commuting, at a concert with friends, or in your parents’ living room to catch up,” the CEO wrote Meta Corporation and Chairman of the Board of Directors.

However, there are still many questions about what exactly the metaverse is and how it could or could affect everyday life. Although it can often mean different things to different people, the metaverse is a shared virtual space and fusion of digital and physical realities. The New York Times recently described the metaverse as “virtual reality and a 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 achieved with technology that enables it. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) provide the essential link to enter this alternate universe. Using augmented reality technology, users operate a lightweight, portable, hands-free, immersive and wearable device.

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, an ultra-fast 120Hz refresh rate, and support for more than 16.8 million colors. And with the new Magic Leap 2, which will be released later in 2022, even more dramatic improvements to many parameters can be envisaged. Augmented reality glasses and their handheld consoles are best used for individuals or teams to work productively in the real world enhanced with high-quality simulation. With virtual reality technology, on the other hand, users are pushed into the digital world in a 3D experience that looks lifelike through advanced headphones and controllers. For example, Valve devices use visual, audio, and ergonomic technologies to create a captivating user experience that includes improved FoV, dual-element lenses, outstanding optics, and extended session comfort.

In the European Union, it is expected that 10,000 new metaverse-related jobs will be created by 2026 to help build the new computing platform. Digital spaces where people can visit places and learn about other avatars are also selling in huge quantities, as one virtual plot of land was recently purchased for $2.4 million in cryptocurrency. The conversation doesn’t end on virtual ground either. Shy of early 2022, a three-deck yacht that’s only in the metaverse was also purchased for $650,000, complete with a DJ cabin, hot tubs, and two helipads. While the metaverse has the potential to be more dangerous than social media can often be, for example through the ease of misinformation or deep fake, it is very likely that it also has the potential to become something that depends. It’s fast and technically difficult to live without.

The current setbacks of legacy devices in the digital spaces

It is clear that the metaverse will severely impact the economy and our lifestyles as its adoption becomes more widespread. In fact, it’s already here with games like Fortnite, which had over 350 million registered users already in 2020 and the latest $68.7 billion news of Microsoft announcing its acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc. beginning of 2022. Bloomberg estimates that the market could potentially reach $800 billion in revenue from social media advertising, hardware, software, and live entertainment opportunities over the next two years.

However, for the metaverse to become truly useful for users in the private and professional fields, significant hardware improvements are required for realistic visual experiences. Traditional devices such as mobile phones and computers do not provide the feeling created by innovative devices, and there are a variety of optical design challenges that need to be addressed to meet the technological needs of the metaverse. Today, while many people are certainly glued to their phones, most are not interested in holding a small screen at eye level for an extended period of time.

With the advancement of projection systems, optical sensors, artificial intelligence, spatial light modulation and fine mechanics, sophisticated technology is required. With augmented reality goggles, virtual reality glasses or tactile gloves, the virtual world appears realistic right in front of you compared to using phones, where augmented reality can only be achieved in a small field of vision and lacks the sense of touch. With new optoelectronic technologies and applications such as advanced sensing, which is important for gesture recognition, and screens that allow switching from the real world to the virtual world and visualizing content, more realistic interactions can take place within the metaverse.

The development of 3D Optical Elements (HOEs) has also created a more realistic and impressive experience due to the lighter weight, thinner form factor and low cost of 3D displays. Legacy devices lack the ability to provide impactful connections between the seamless and interchangeable digital and physical worlds.

Hardware innovation for a future within the metaverse

The future undoubtedly includes technology that will always evolve. While the software is virtually in place, manufacturers who are one-stop shop and have the expertise to create new, innovative devices will allow companies to overcome many of the projected hardware hurdles in order to enter the metaverse with innovative spectacles.

It is critical to collaborate with a trusted manufacturing partner who has established world-class experts in optical systems and technologies in developing these innovations. Accessing the metaverse is also a challenge because there is a need for AR/VR solutions that are accessible to billions of people. This requires a solid understanding of engineering, design and manufacturing to deliver complex, cost-effective optical solutions in large volumes.

The importance of the devices’ compact form factor, precise field-of-view (FoV) adaptation, high resolution, and broader FoV needs on the fabrication floor begin with precise optical alignment. To satisfy the viewer, the ultimate experience will be devices that provide comfort through sociability, visual perception and wear, as well as immersion in precision, gestures and tactile interactions.

With the right improvements in optics, sensing and display technology, the metaverse is likely to become as large 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 access to the Internet, it is a noble but reasonable goal.

Simon Schwinger, Commercial Empowerment, Jabil Optics Germany GmbH

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