Apr 17, 2019

DigiLens takes AR to the next level with the help of OpticStudio

DigiLens takes AR to the next level with the help of OpticStudio

Zemax customer DigiLens is a Silicon Valley-based startup revolutionizing waveguide optics for augmented reality (AR) applications. The company is using OpticStudio to help solve the problems associated with bringing thinner, better-fidelity smartglasses to market. And it all starts with waveguides.

What are waveguides?

Waveguides can be thought of as transparent “light pipes.” Imagine a set of transparent pipes with water running through them. If you look at the pipes from the side, you can see right through them. If you look head-on, you’ll be able to see the water coming right at you. Now imagine the water is light. That, essentially, is a waveguide. 

But why waveguides? Waveguides address the problem of bulky wearable AR displays. Instead of classical refractive optics that take up a lot of space, waveguide optics fit the refractive and diffractive elements into a “glasses thin” compact form factor to help lighten the load of the display and reduce its footprint.

Breakthrough: DigiLens waveguides 

According to DigiLens, its Switchable Bragg Grating (SBG) waveguides enable switchable, tunable, and digitally reconfigurable color waveguide displays with a field of view, brightness, and form factor surpassing those of competing technologies. DigiLens waveguides are printed with a proprietary photopolymer that can provide a range of diffraction efficiencies and angular bandwidth combinations, resulting in high transparency and low haze. The waveguides can be laminated together to integrate multiple optical functions into a thin, transparent device.


DigiLens prints their photopolymer onto the substrate (glass or plastic) and uses a contact-copy process to create nanostructures within the material, which then opens and closes these “light pipes” so that the image from the light source will make its way to your eyes. This allows for extremely lightweight designs. DigiLens has created AR platforms that feature heads-up displays for helmet-mounted displays, smartglasses, automotive windshields, and soon to be many more.

Overcoming obstacles with OpticStudio

While DigiLens is helping global brands and manufacturers power a new breed of AR products through display technology and photopolymers, OpticStudio is helping DigiLens innovate. 

“Out-of-the-box optical CAD tools cannot meet our unique design needs making OpticStudio’s extensive customization capabilities vital for us,” said Alastair Grant, DigiLens Vice President of Optical Engineering. “We use custom DLLs with OpticStudio to generate ray traces of entire waveguides that calculate diffraction efficiency for DigiLens unique holographic photopolymer material systems based on different physical models.”

We’re thrilled to be helping DigiLens enable the next generation of waveguide-based AR displays using its proprietary photopolymers, copy manufacturing, and display reference designs for applications across industries including aerospace, automotive, enterprise, military, and consumer products.