Advanced freeform optics enabling ultra-compact VR headsets
We present novel advanced optical designs with a dramatically smaller display to eye distance, excellent image quality and a large field of view (FOV). This enables headsets to be much more compact, typically occupying about a fourth of the volume of a conventional headset with the same FOV. The design strategy of these optics is based on a multichannel approach, which reduces the distance from the eye to the display and the display size itself. Unlike conventional microlens arrays, which are also multichannel devices, our designs use freeform optical surfaces to produce excellent imaging quality in the entire field of view, even when operating at very oblique incidences. We present two families of compact solutions that use different types of lenslets: (1) refractive designs, whose lenslets are composed typically of two refractive surfaces each; and (2) light-folding designs that use prism-like three-surface lenslets, in which rays undergo refraction, reflection, total internal reflection and refraction again. The number of lenslets is not fixed, so different configurations may arise, adaptable for flat or curved displays with different aspect ratios. In the refractive designs the distance between the optics and the display decreases with the number of lenslets, allowing for displaying a light-field when the lenslet becomes significantly small than the eye pupil. On the other hand, the correlation between number of lenslets and the optics to display distance is broken in light-folding designs, since their geometry permits achieving a very short display to eye distance with even a small number of lenslets.