Researchers claim big step forward for augmented reality

Currently, one of the biggest problems with spatial computing devices is their bulkiness – a high-quality device requires space for its components. However, researchers from Stanford University claim that spatial computing devices may soon look like a pair of normal glasses without sacrificing quality.

The researchers created a prototype of an augmented reality headset that uses holographic imaging to overlay full-color, 3D moving images on the lenses, combining advances in AI, display technologies, and holographic imaging.

"Our headset appears to the outside world just like an everyday pair of glasses, but what the wearer sees through the lenses is an enriched world overlaid with vibrant, full-color 3D computed imagery," said Gordon Wetzstein, an associate professor of electrical engineering in a statement.

Wetzstein and a team of engineers introduced their device in a new paper in the journal Nature.

Usually, techniques for displaying augmented reality imagery require the use of complex optical systems, where users see images projected with cameras mounted on the headset's exterior and combine that imagery with computed imagery.

Since there has to be a minimum distance between the eye, the lenses, and the screens, these systems usually are bigger and may lead to unsatisfying viewing experiences.

To overcome such issues, scientists turned to holography instead of stereoscopic approaches. They used AI to improve the depth cues in the holographic images, which are usually problematic when using this method.

After that, by leveraging advances in nanophotonics and waveguide display technologies, the researchers were able to project computed holograms onto the lenses of the glasses without relying on bulky additional optics.

"Holographic displays have long been considered the ultimate 3D technique, but it's never quite achieved that big commercial breakthrough," Wetzstein said. "Maybe now they have the killer app they've been waiting for all these years."

According to the researchers, such a technology could be used in various fields, including gaming, entertainment, and education – anywhere computed imagery might enhance or inform the wearer’s understanding of the world around them.