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tooz and JBD
Smart glasses get smarter
Curved waveguide smart glasses (Image courtesy of JBD & tooz technologies GmbH)

What happens when you put two superior optical technologies together? In the case of smart glasses you get bigger, brighter and less blurry.

Kingsman-style smart glasses have been available for more than a year now but they typically have flat glass lenses which are difficult to adjust for the 50% of the adult population who wear prescription glasses. A new joint venture between microLED device manufacturer Jade Bird Display (JBD) and smart glasses developer tooz technologies GmbH (tooz) is set to change that. On January 20th 2022 the companies announced a collaboration to put bright microLED displays into glasses with curved lenses. A first demonstration is taking place at the Photonics West SPIE AR VR MR 2022 exhibition (23rd – 25th January 2022 in San Francisco, USA).

Almost exactly one year ago Corbeau reported an Insight on new micro-LED driven smart glasses from Vuzix, a major breakthrough in terms of connectivity and what we now call the Metaverse. With existing products for industrial and medical applications, Vuzix announced the NGSG (Next Generation Smart Glasses) for the consumer market. NGSG combined tiny high resolution microLED red/green/blue displays with their state-of-the-art waveguide optics for displaying 3D images in front of the wearer’s eyes.

Vuzix AR glasses
Vuzix NGSG smart glasses for Augmented Reality display (Image with courtesy from Vuzix)

In the past year a number of new players have entered the market with their own smart glasses. Xiaomi, a budget smartphone manufacturer from China, has glasses with a monochrome green display based on what looks like a Jade Bird Display 0.1″ device. Lenovo has launched the ThinkReality A3 with high resolution AR display but a rather heavy look. TCL’s Nxtwear G glasses offer high resolution cinema-style projection and get around the prescription lenses issue with a custom frame that looks a bit like Neo and Trinity’s eyeware from the Matrix. But on stalks.

tooz (it seems strange to start a sentence without a capital letter) make much of their new curved waveguide technology. Vuzix developed a waveguide element to their smart glasses which enabled light of different wavelengths to be projected as a image in three dimensions in front of the wearer’s eyes. This was amazingly cool. tooz have gone one better and invented a curved waveguide, which realises a number of improvements to the design and performance of smart glasses. Reading through technical presentations from tooz, Corbeau spotted seven major advantages of curved waveguides compared to planar waveguides:

  • unbreakable plastic rather than brittle glass
  • lighter and more compact than glass
  • use less optical elements due to curved surfaces bending light
  • require just one waveguide layer rather than one for each colour
  • material rejects sunlight and rain interference outdoors
  • curved waveguide reduces display visibility to others
  • curved waveguide claimed to be more efficient than planar ones
Curved waveguide advantages compared to planar waveguide (Image courtesy of tooz)

Where do Jade Bird Display fit into the picture? tooz started developing their smart glasses with OLED light sources rather than microLED. OLEDs typically have some advantages but their big disadvantage is the displays are not as bright as microLED displays. Waveguides have amazing properties but are lossy, they waste much of the light intensity passing through them. The tiny microLED displays from JBD have brightness values of millions of nits (the iPad has a humble several thousand nits). This means they can be used outdoors in full sun, to project usable images over wide angles even though much of the light is lost in the waveguide. JBD also have a rather neat X-cube optic which combines the outputs from tiny individual red, green and blue microLED displays no bigger than a grain of rice.

Exploded view of JBD X-cube microLED and tooz curved waveguide lens (Image courtesy of tooz)

So where does this great technical synergy lead? With the possibility of smart glasses for the whole population, including the 50% who require prescription lenses, a massive potential market is opened up. tooz aren’t just targeting technophiles, they have real-life commercial applications in their sights. Vuzix have a business model that has targetted early adopters in the engineering services sector. tooz are pushing their new products into engineering and medicine. They have a fascinating promo video of a pilot study at the University Hospital of Dresden (see the bottom of this Insight for a link).

University Hospital Dresden pilot study of tooz smart glasses (Image courtesy of tooz)

One more thing. tooz started out as a new venture between optics experts Carl Zeiss and IT giant Deutsche Telekom. They have automated manufacture for volume manufacture of optics and real reach into IoT in the field.

Smart glasses are now real products with commercial benefits. The party is just getting started and we haven’t seen what Apple and Facebook will bring to the party yet. Could the next two years see the death of the smart phone and the birth of the Matrix?

Visit the Photonics West SPIE AR | VR | MR 2022 .

Find more tooz company information .

Find more Jade Bird Display company information .

See the Xiaomi smart glasses video.

View the TCL Nxtwear G glasses.

See the tooz glasses University Hospital Dresden promo video

Vuzix AR glasses
Micro-LED driven AR smart glasses
Vuzix Next Generation Smart Glasses
Vuzix Next Generation Smart Glasses (courtesy Vuzix)

Augmented Reality (AR) glasses are now looking remarkably stylish. Forget bulky Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and piratical Google Glass. Optoelectronics company Vuzix (Rochester, NY) has announced a pair of stereo vision glasses offering a head-up display (HUD) of the smartphone in your pocket. Or car. Or back home, actually.

CES 2021 (Jan 11-14), a consumer electronics show, handed Vuzix three CES2021 Innovation Awards for their Next Generation Smart Glasses (NGSG). Vuzix are saying we can expect the NGSG in the shops (pandemic permitting) summer 2021.

How did this happen?

Paul Travers founded Vuzix in 1997 with a desire not only to combine new technologies in innovative ways but also to provide solutions to customers’ problems. Vuzix has focused its AR product development on solving specific problems for specific customers. The Vuzix business model has therefore been B2B sales of wearable devices that: enable service engineers and technicians to follow instructions in manuals hands-free; allow clinicial experts to get a carer’s eye view of a patient; give advanced understanding to a surgical team awaiting the arrival of paramedic’s casualty.

Vuzix wins three CES 2021 Awards (courtesy Vuzix)

Existing Vuzix products from the BLADE to the M4000 have exploited state-of-the art light sources, optical components and low power high performance microprocessors. Their latest NGSG exploits the latest microLED displays, Internet of Things chips and waveguide optics.

Probably the most significant new technology is the introduction of microLED light sources which offer high brightness, high spatial resolution displays with very low power consumption. Matching the colour detectors in the human eye, red green and blue microLED displays are combined in the glasses to project colour images to a focal plane in front of the wearer. MicroLED packages are indeed awesome things. Vuzix source their microLED components from Jade Bird Display (Shanghai, China). Incredibly, a monochrome display panel with 6000 DPI GaN diodes is smaller than a grain of rice! Jade Bird Display (JBD) claim their components are the worlds smallest VGA resolution displays. More information on Jade Bird Display components can be seen below.

Jade Bird Display microLED technologies

So just how far can this technology go? how slim can the glasses’ frames be made and how big can the projected 3D images become?

Arguably the limit of the technology is set by the dimensions of the microLEDs themselves. JBD use GaN diodes in their displays that are tiny, just 4 microns in diameter. Microelectronic fabrication techniques can certainly make smaller devices. CMOS technology for example can produce structures on silicon wafers that are tens of nanometers in diameter. When a diode junction has to operate simply as a switch, subtle changes in material properties that result from their small size are not critical. The same isn’t true for the external optical properties of an LED. As the diameter of an LED gets smaller, its properties are increasingly determined by its edges rather than its bulk. Edge effects change the emission wavelength of the light and reduce the efficiency of the microLED device.

To really drive AR smart glasses and other display products forwards requires both increasing the resolution of microLED components and reducing their cost. This is challenging and requires improved test and inspection tools that can quickly detect defects on whole semiconductor wafers and analyse individual defects less than the size of a single pixel.

We will have to wait until later this year before we can get our hands on the latest AR glasses technology but microLED test and inspection instrumentation is available from Corbeau Innovation now, click below for product information.