Just a quick update to my last article this time. I found another “No Moore’s Law” for optics reference that was the subject of my last article, “Saying “Moore’s Law or Apple” Does Not Make AR a Consumer Product.”
Jerry Carollo “No Free Lunch and No Moore’s Law” for Optics
I was looking at some pictures I took at Photonics West 2019, I found some slides from Jerry Carollo of Google’s Daydream VR, which in turn led me to a Youtube Video that included his talk on VR and AR. The video had a slide saying “No Moore’s Law” for optics, which was the subject of my last article, “Saying “Moore’s Law or Apple” Does Not Make AR a Consumer Product.”
Some good quotes from the video, “It’s the optics guy’s fault because they can’t figure out how to make it smaller;” “If you have something like this and you have a lens and a certain focal length and a certain field of view there’s nothing magical you can do to make it small;” “That’s why they all look like bricks on the faces. That’s how I just tell my team all the time I say it’s your job to make this look better;” and “So in optics, there are two things, no free lunch, and no Moore’s Law.”
It looks like Google took Jerry Carollo at his word, because as The Verge on October 15, 2019, reported, “Google is discontinuing the Daydream View VR headset, and the Pixel 4 won’t support Daydream”
“Fix It in Post”
I was on a military base talking to some people there about AR. They said that in addition to talking to technical people, they were going “outside the box” to try and figure out the future of AR by talking to people from Hollywood. My immediate reaction was, the way they do AR in Hollywood is to “fix it in post” with computer graphics compositing. Composting in computer graphics is not bound by the laws of physics.
Everything Ends Up Like Hololens
A slide I have presented in my private talks discusses how “Everything in AR starts out trying to look like Ray-Bans® and ends up looking like Hololens.” I based it on the old Tree Swing Cartoon of product/software development.
While the tree swing cartoon’s point is one of miscommunication, the problem for AR is that people are being asked, sometimes (sometimes not) innocently enough, to violate laws of physics.
Everyone, it seems, starts with Ray-Ban® sunglasses as their starting point. As they try and solve one technical problem after another, the headset grows until it becomes a small helmet, ala Hololens (1 and 2). Even if they use something that looks thin like waveguides, the waveguides have to be protected as they are very fragile. Adding SLAM means having to put cameras that are spread out and have to be mounted somewhere, which makes the headset bigger. Supporting transparency while being bright enough to see the image, requires a bright projector, which in turn means battery power and heat management.
People are now coming to expect the high image quality they get from 4K TVs with high dynamic range and by the fanciful visions that Hollywood comes up with for AR that can only be done in post-production CGI.
Hucksters, like Rony Abovitz, CEO of Magic Leap, are not incombered by too much understanding of the physics involved (thus wiggling fiber display con). He has found enough suckers and executives with big egos to keep funding his AR fantasies, at least for a while longer. To me, it is bad when the hucksters are soaking up much of the big money. Good cons generally have something that gives them at least a thin veil of being believable. In the case of Magic Leap, they moved the processing and battery to a separate pack.
5G Won’t Fix Everything
In my last article, I got several people suggesting that 5G was AR’s answer to Moore’s law. From what I hear this the story Magic Leap is telling to raise money from Telecos around the world. I think they may have missed the point that optics are on a much slower-moving curve. The “move the computing to the battery pack” argument as morphed into the mythical “5G will fix everything.” Assuming the 5G cells are very close (the speed of light is ~1 foot or ~1/3rd of a meter per nanosecond) and every cell has a computer with enough processing to support all the users near it, at best, it only removes part of the computing burden and battery power off of the AR headset. It is a bit like squeezing a balloon in that other problems become worse.
The headset will now have a massive transmission burden and will have to have better back end display processing (ex., ARM’s Mali-D77) to adjust for “motion to photon” time lags. Even taking all the processing burdens away, there will still be the optical challenges to get a high-resolution image with the desired FOV presented to the eye.
Targeted Applications Are the Most Promising
One way to avoid the feature creep that ends up with Hololens-like helmets is to better understand and target specific applications rather than trying to be all things to all people and hoping for a miracle to solve everything.