May 18, 2018

The Hype Cycle and stray light

The Hype Cycle and stray light

The Hype Cycle from Gartner, a leading technology research company, is a graphical way to discern the hype surrounding new technologies from true commercial viability. The cycle includes five key phases of a technology's life cycle, represented as expectations over time. Applying the Hype Cycle to the optics industry, it could be said that stray light analysis has reached the final phase where mainstream adoption starts to take off-which means that it carries broad applicability and relevance to optical and optomechanical engineers working on designs for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) systems, heads-up displays, optical facial recognition, biomedical imaging, autonomous vehicles, drones, and more.

"Stray light analysis has hit its stride, much like optimization and tolerancing did," says Mark Nicholson, Zemax CEO. "When optimization and tolerancing tools were first introduced, engineers were fearful that they'd have nothing to do if the software was doing it for them. But it was the opposite: The software enabled them to produce better designs and freed up time for them to innovate. Stray light analysis will do the same, particularly as more and more teams are embracing modern virtual prototyping tools to predict and correct stray light early in the design process."

Phases of the Hype Cycle

Here are the five key phases of a technology's life cycle, according to Gartner:

  1. Innovation Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.

  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories-often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.

  3. Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.

  4. Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.

  5. Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology's broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.

Stray light modeling and the Hype Cycle

Stray light, or light not intended in the design, comes from many different sources, complicating the optical product design process. It can be caused by reflections off the surface of a lens or imperfect mirror surfaces, light leaks, or light emitted by components of the system itself. At the dawn of the optics industry, the Innovation Trigger was the need for stray light analysis. Tracking stray light is incredibly important for the success of an optical system. This was done in the early days by maintaining a tabular report of where the rays started and ended. The Peak of Inflated Expectations was marked by "masters" like NASA sharing success stories of stray light quantitative analyses-and being thought of as the only ones who could do it properly. Until this point, stray light modeling was often done at the end of projects-if it failed, it was back to square one. This cost companies time and money, leading into the Trough of Disillusionment.

During the stray light analysis Slope of Enlightenment phase, ray tracing technology improved, giving engineers tools to predict and correct stray light before the design was final. We're proud that OpticStudio has become the industry leader, letting engineers analyze stray light in non-sequential mode as they create optical, illumination, and laser systems.

Looking ahead: stray light and the Plateau of Productivity

At Zemax, we're taking stray light analysis to the next level, by giving optical and mechanical engineers tools to not only detect stray light, but to correct it early in the design process—whether with the lens design or the mechanical design—using modern virtual prototyping. Using both OpticStudio and LensMechanix—the best application for mechanical engineers to package optical systems in CAD software—optical and mechanical engineers can share complete design data and analyze optical performance in a virtual model, reducing design iterations and physical prototypes—saving time and money.

With stray light, we've seen what used to be a huge problem for experts who needed massive computational processing power, become something that can be handled by any smart engineer with a desktop computer. With innovations like Zemax Virtual Prototyping, stray light analysis will continue to be refined and become faster and easier, helping to fuel innovation in AR/VR, automotive, aerospace, defense, biomedical, consumer electronics, displays, life sciences, semiconductors, and vision systems.

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