National Physical Laboratory

Adaptive optics Augmented Reality Holographic Waveguides

Augmented reality devices enable people to view the world around them overlaid with data relevant to what they are seeing. Applications range from head-up displays in motorcycle helmets, showing speed, navigation and safety information, to headsets worn by surgeons during operations providing them with live health data from the patient.

The Adaptive Optics team at NPL has worked in partnership with British company Colour Holographic Ltd to make these devices a reality. Holographic waveguides equipped with the technology are currently being marketed for developers by Colour Holographic through their brand TruLife Optics.

The optic, which incorporates two holograms, offers several features for augmented reality devices. Images can be displayed in high definition, full colour, in perfect focus and potentially in 3D through the centre of a field of vision.

Critically, the image is transparent, allowing for the perfect overlay of information on whatever subject is being viewed. The optic itself is lightweight, less than 2 mm thick, and can be easily mass-produced for consumer and industrial applications.

Watch a video about the technology:

TruLife Optics is selling the optic through its website to developers of prototype augmented reality devices.

The product consists of a glass waveguide, approximately 10 cm long, 3 cm wide and 2.8 mm in thickness, which contains two postage stamp sized holograms. The light is transmitted into the first hologram and then turned 90 degrees through the length of the waveguide, via total internal reflection, before hitting the second hologram and being turned a further 90 degrees so it is projected into the human eye.

NPL / Colour Holographic adaptive optics
(Click to open)

This allows for overlaid transparent images to be projected from the centre of the optic in perfect focus.

Colour Holographic and NPL will work alongside developers of augmented reality devices to provide customised, bespoke solutions to enable the adoption of this technology. We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Display Link, Cambridge, for the addition of a compression board to the micro display, which allows connection to video using a computer using a single USB 3.0 cable.

Find out more about TruLife Optics

Find out more about NPL's work on Adaptive Optics

Find out more about NPL's work on Wavefront Sensing

What's new?

NPL and Colour Holographic have patented an infra-red hologram waveguide system that allows eye tracking by using an optical component for wearable displays.

Pupil position and accommodation state of the eye will be measurable using a digital camera system collocated with the micro-display, providing a 'heads-up' image.

Media coverage

The technology was featured in The Telegraph, The Economist, Physics World and The Engineer

See the cover of Physics World through a holographic wave guide


Please note that the information will not be divulged to third parties, or used without your permission