Samsung AR Design “News”
Several technology news articles on October 23, 2019 (yesterday as I write) reported about a possible Samsung AR design, including Engadget, The Verge, and Pocket-Lint, based on a Samsung AR Headset Design Patent discovered by Galaxy Club. Engadget, The Verge, and Pocket-Lint mention Apple Analysist Ming-Chi Kuo’s prediction of Apple’s AR glasses in early 2020. I will have to deal with the Apple rumors later (I think they are much overblown, hint, hint), but as I will show with this Design Patent, the more you know, the less it looks like a ground breaking product for the mass-market.
The part of the Samsung Korean Design Patent 30-1027783 that caused people to think it might be a serious effort is the inclusion of what looks to be 3-D rendering. I don’t think it is a photograph of a working device as the optics are clear in places where there must be both semi-mirrored and fully-mirrored surfaces for it to work. It helps to know what to look for in the picture, as I will explain below.
Warning: I’m trying to be timely with the Samsung AR Design Patent news of yesterday (as I write). There may be more than my usual number of typos. Hopefully, a least the images tell the story.
The Optics Look A Lot Like Raontech’s Reference Design
The design patent also includes seven outline drawings with seven different views. I improved the contrast of the first figure, and the structure of the optics became much more apparent and one I have seen many times before. It is a form of “birdbath optics” and it looks very similar ones I have seen from companies using Raontech’s development kit. It so happens Raontech has a YouTube video with a diagram of their optics and I cropped a still frame and mirrored it to show a similar view to the Samsung figure. You should note the diagonal line of the beam splitter and the spherical mirror on the bottom.
I should add, Both Samsung and Raontech are located in or near Seoul South Korea. Maybe it is a coincidence, likely not.
Birdbath Optics are Very Common in AR
I have included a picture I took at CES 2018 of Raontech’s birdbath optical design. The spherical full-mirror (and thus black on the bottom) and there is a polarizing beam splitter. Note this is looking from the inside out of the optics where the diagrams above are from the outside-in, and thus the beam splitter is turned around.
There are a few different configurations for making a birdbath design. Raontech’s version is structurally similar to that used on Google Glass, only rotated 90 degrees. For more on birdbath designs, see my March 3, 2017 article.
“Birdbath” optics use a spherical mirror to magnify and shift the focus of the display’s image. A beam splitter is used to make in the incoming image hit spherical mirror “on-axis” (perpendicular to the curve at the center of the image). Various forms of Birdbath optics are the most common type found in head-mounted displays. The curved mirror gives image quality with low chromatic aberration (color separation) at a low cost.
As I discussed on January 29, 2019, Nreal also uses a birdbath optical design only the configuration of the beam splitter and curved mirror is different. Nreal uses a polarized-spherical-mirror that the user looks through. Nreal’s design is similar to ODG’s R6, R8, and R9 (left).
ThirdEye Gen X1 Using RaonTech Gives Other Views
Also at CES 2018 using RaonTech’s optics was Thirdeye (now ThirdEye Gen). ThirdEye Gen is now calling the Raontech design their X1. Note how the front view looks very similar to the Samsung Design. The side view shows how far the optics stick out from the eye. was able to find both a front view similar to the Samsung Design and a side view of the headset. From the side view angle, you can see how much the optics sit out from the head.
Interestingly, at CES 2019 ThirdEye was showing their X2 design (above) which appears to be using Lumus’s older OE50 Optics. Lumus’s newer optical designs are considerably less bulky.
When one is looking at patents from big companies like Samsung and Apple, one can draw some erroneous conclusions about what they with a product. Giant companies like these are going to be covering a lot of different bases. The cost of these R&D efforts is trivial compared to the company’s revenues. With today’s 3-D Modeling and 3-D printing is has become trivially easy to build prototypes and models that look like real products.
The Samsung design was almost trivial to identify as being either the Raontech design or one that is very similar due to having seen it before. Most times, a “new” design is using an old design or a similar variant. Everyone has to live with the same laws of physics.