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

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With the metaverse expected to reach $800 billion in revenue from social media ads, as well as hardware, software and live entertainment opportunities over the next two years, significant hardware upgrades are needed today for experiences realistic visuals tomorrow.

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

As 2021 drew to a close, a letter written by Facebook at the time, now founder of Meta Mark Zuckerberg, sparked a global conversation around the future of immersive technology and what’s possible in the metaverse. In the announcement, Zuckerberg explained how, in the company’s redesigned platform, people will be able to do almost anything. “Get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create… you can instantly teleport yourself as a hologram to be in the office without moving, at a concert with friends or in the living room of your parents to catch up”, the CEO and president of Meta wrote.

Yet many are wondering what the metaverse is exactly and how would it be could have an impact daily lives. Although it can often mean different things to different people, the Metaverse is a shared virtual space and the merging of digital and physical realities. The New York Times recently describes the metaverse as a “virtual reality and a second digital life… [where] we spent a lot of time interacting with our friends and colleagues in the virtual space…we also spent money there.

It is important to note that the metaverse can only be achieved through the technology that allows it. Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) provide the main link to enter this alternate universe. With AR technology, users use a device that is essentially a lightweight, portable or hands-free, immersive and portable computer.

The technical specifications of Magic Leap, for example, offer a 50-degree wide field of view (FoV), high resolution with 1.3m pixels per eye, super-fast 120Hz refresh rate, and support for over 16.8 m of colors. And with their new Magic Leap 2, which will be released later in 2022, even more huge improvements to many parameters can be expected. 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. With VR technology, on the other hand, users are thrust into the digital world in a 3D experience that feels realistic through advanced headsets and controllers. For example, Valve hardware uses visual, audio, and ergonomic technologies to create an engaging user experience that includes FoV optimization, dual-element lenses, angled optics, and long-session comfort.

In the European Union, 10,000 new jobs linked to the metaverse should be introduced by 2026 to help build the new computing platform. Digital spaces where people can visit places and meet other avatars are also being sold for massive amounts, with virtual real estate recently purchased for $2.4 million in cryptocurrency. The conversation doesn’t end on a virtual pitch either. Just before the start of 2022, a three-story yacht that only exists in the Metaverse was also purchased for $650,000, complete with a DJ booth, hot tubs, and two helipads. Although the metaverse has the power to be riskier than social media often can be, for example due to the ease of misinformation or deep fakes, it is very possible that it also has the potential to becoming something people quickly become addicted to and a technology that’s pretty hard to live without.

The current setbacks of legacy devices in digital spaces

Obviously, the Metaverse will have a big impact on the economy and our lifestyles as its adoption becomes more widespread. In fact, it’s already there with games like fortnitewho had good more than 350 million users already registered in 2020 and the latest 68.7 billion dollars from Microsoft announcing its acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc. in early 2022. Bloomberg estimates that the metaverse market size could reach $800 billion in revenue from social media ads, hardware, software, and live entertainment opportunities over the next two years.

However, for the Metaverse to become truly beneficial to users in the private and professional domains, significant hardware improvements are required for realistic visual experiences. Traditional hardware like cell phones and computers lack the feel that results from innovative hardware, and there are a variety of optical design challenges that must be addressed to meet the technology needs of the metaverse. Today, while many people are certainly glued to their phones, most aren’t interested in holding a small screen at eye level for an extended period of time.

With advances in projection systems, optical sensors, AI, spatial light modulation, and precision mechanics, advanced technology is needed. 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 performed in a tiny field of view and lacks haptic feeling. With new optical electronic technologies and applications such as advanced sensing, which is important for gesture recognition, and displays that enable real-to-virtual world transformation and content viewing, more realistic online interactions. inside the metaverse are possible.

The evolution of Holographic Optical Elements (HOE) also creates a more realistic and impressive experience due to their light and thin form factor and low cost in 3D screens. Legacy devices lack the ability to provide impactful connections between the 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 be evolving. While the software is almost there, one-stop-shop manufacturers and having the experience of creating new and inventive hardware will enable companies to overcome many of the hardware hurdles expected to enter the metaverse with innovative eyewear.

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

The importance of the hardware’s compact form factor, precise field-of-view (FoV) matching, high resolution, and broader FoV needs starts at the manufacturing site with precise optical alignment. To satisfy the viewer, a ultimate experience will be hardware that provides comfort through social ability, visual perception, and portability, as well as immersion through resolution, gestures, and haptic interactions.

With the right improvements in optical, sensing, and display technology, the Metaverse will likely 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 peopleconsidered to have access to the Internet, it is a noble but plausible objective.

Simon Schwingerbusiness support, Jabil Optics Germany GmbH

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