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Kopin Latest XR Optical Solution is an All-Plastic Pancake Design

The job is to get thinner and lighter, with plastic optics helping that endeavour.

Kopin’s microdisplays have long been used in a range of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) products such as the SKULLY FENIX AR motorcycle helmet and the Google Glass Enterprise Edition. Like many companies working within the XR field, Kopin is working towards that dream scenario of a small, lightweight headset not too dissimilar to a pair of glasses. Its latest reveal takes another step towards that future with its new all-plastic Pancake optics.

Kopin Pancake Lens

Pancake optics are nothing new as they allow for a thin form factor, ideal for XR applications. However, this optical solution tends to require a glass lens to avoid image artefacts caused by birefringence when used in conjunction with plastic materials. Kopin has managed to create an all-plastic solution using two elements which not only reduces weight but also provides “virtually no birefringence” the company claims.

Currently, the company has applied for three patents on the design with more to follow. Its first all-plastic Pancake optics is called the P95 as it provides a 95° field of view (FoV), whilst weighing in at 15g per lens set and 16mm thick.

“This major breakthrough represents a foundational milestone for the emerging VR markets. Bulky, heavy headsets have been a major barrier to faster consumer adoption for many years. No more,” said Dr. John C.C. Fan, CEO and founder of Kopin Corporation in a statement. “After thorough review of the available optics designs, we believe all-plastic Pancake optics are the best for VR applications that require a very large field of view, excellent image performance, and a super compact size. The challenge of finding a suitable plastic material with the required optical properties has been solved.”

Google Glass Enterprise Edition2
Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 uses Kopin’s nHD Display.

“We believe our Pancake optics are perfect for VR headsets. Our first design, P95, is specifically optimized for use with our 2.6K x 2.6K OLED high-brightness microdisplays. This new technology would be ideal for VR, but we believe this unique optics would also be useful for MR and AR applications,” Fan continues. “With all-plastic Pancake optics and duo-stack OLED microdisplays, the dream of stylish, super lightweight (< 100 g), compact VR/MR/AR high-performance headset products is finally reachable. We plan on offering our new optics as either a stand-alone component or in a module with our OLED microdisplays. We are delighted that we already have the first design-in partner for our P95 optics.”

As patents are still being applied for it might be a while before Kopin’s P95 Pancake Optics start showing up in products. There are plenty of others including Facebook and Apple looking to get into the AR market over the next couple of years whilst those already in the field like Microsoft are working towards consumer-friendly devices. As further details are released, VRFocus will let you know.

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