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Course SC1218

Optical Technologies and Architectures for Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs)

Wednesday, 26 January 2022 • 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM PST
Level: Intermediate
Member: $745.00
Non-member: $875.00
Student member: $425.00
The course provides an extensive overview of the current product offerings as well as the various optical architectures, as in:
- Smart Glasses and Digital Eyewear
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) headsets
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Merged Reality headsets
The course describes the optical backbone of existing systems, as well as the various optical building blocks, as in:
- Display engines including microdisplay panel architectures, scanner based light engines and phase panels
- Optical combiners integrated either in free space or waveguide platforms
- Depth mapping sensors either though structured illumination or time of flight
- Head tracking, gaze tracking and gesture sensors
Emphasis is set on the design and fabrication techniques to provide the best display immersion and comfort:
- Wearable comfort (size/ weight, CG)
- Visual comfort (eye box size and IPD coverage, angular resolution, FOV, distortion, dynamic range, contrast,…)
- Passive and active foveated rendering and peripheral displays
- VAC (Vergence Accommodation Conflict) mitigation through varifocal, multifocal, spatial and temporal light fields and per pixel depth holographic displays.
The features and limitations of current optical technologies addressing such specifications are reviewed.

In order to design next generation head worn systems, one needs to fully understand the specifics and limitations of the human visual system, and design the optics and the optical architecture around such. :: Challenges for next generation systems are reviewed, where immersion and comfort need to be addressed along with consumer level costs requirements.
Finally, the course reviews market analysts’ expectations, projected over the next 5 to 10 years, and lists the main actors (major product design companies, start-ups and optical building block vendors, and current investment rounds in such). Demonstration of some of the state of the art AR, MR and VR headsets will be offered to attendees at the end of the course.

Learning Outcomes

  • identify the various consumer and enterprise head worn systems available in industry today, defined as smart glasses, digital eyewear, AR, MR and VR HMDs, and understand their fundamental differences and specifics
  • explain the current optical technologies and sub-systems, their advantages and limitations.
  • describe the relations and implications between FOV, resolution, MTF, eyebox size, effective IPD coverage, screen door effects, pupil swim, vergence/accommodation disparity, foveated rendering, peripheral displays,
  • examine the human visual system, its specifics and limitations.
  • identify the limitations of current optical architectures and how some can be overcome by designing the optics around the human visual system.
  • describe the feature and functionality requirement for next generation systems, and review the key enabling technologies.
  • examine the current AR/VR market status as well as the upcoming market expectations for each field (smart glasses, AR and VR)


Optical, mechanical and electrical engineers involved in the design and development of Enterprise and Consumer HMDs in all their declinations. Product and project managers involved in defining current and next generation HMD products, technology product roadmaps and next generation optical sub-systems.


Bernard C. Kress - Google (United States)
Bernard C. Kress has been involved in the field of optics and specifically micro-optics for the past two decades as an associate professor, instructor, author, entrepreneur, engineer, team manager and engineering director. He has been instrumental in developing new optical technologies that have been included in various industrial, defense and consumer products, in fields such as laser materials processing, optical anti-counterfeiting, biotech sensors, optical telecom devices, optical data storage, optical computing, motion sensors, displays, depth map sensors, and more recently head-up and head mounted displays (smart glasses, AR, VR and MR). His is specifically involved in the field of micro-optics, wafer scale optics, holography and nanophotonics. Bernard has published numerous books and book chapters on micro-optics and has more than 50 patents granted worldwide. He is a short course instructor for the SPIE and is involved in numerous SPIE conferences as technical committee member and conference chair. He is chairing the SPIE Digital Optical Technologies and the SPIE AR/VR/MR conference series. He has been an SPIE fellow since 2013 and served as an SPIE Board Director from 2016 to 2019. He was elected in 2020 to the presidential chain of the SPIE, and serves currently as its Vice-President (2021). During the past decade, Bernard has been the principal optical architect on the Google Glass project and the partner optical architect on the Hololens team at Microsoft for the past decade. He is currently the Director for XR Engineering at Google Labs in Mountain View.

Additional notes

This course is also available in online format.