See-Through Head Worn Display (HWD) Architectures

  • Jannick P. RollandEmail author
  • Kevin P. Thompson
  • Hakan Urey
  • Mason Thomas
Reference work entry


Over the past 3 decades, as computer and display technology advanced along the path laid out by Moore’s Law of miniaturization and functionality, many writers presented scenarios for augmented reality (AR) displays centered on bringing information to the individual. In that the emphasis was on the individual experience, the initial technology that did not pursue a see-through geometry seemed viable. When the initial solutions, a generation of look-at displays resting on the nose bridge appeared around 2000, the market did not embrace it. Suddenly now, social media has burst on the scene and wireless access has become ubiquitous. The result is a renewed research interest in a family of see-through head-worn displays (HWDs) enabling real-time interaction throughout the global community.

See-through HWD design inherently requires an interdisciplinary approach; optical engineering, opto-mechanics, ergonomics, and psychology all being keys to the design process. The last decade has seen a game changing technology emerge, the organic light emitting display (OLED), replacing what was thought itself to be game changing, the light emitting diode (LED) illuminator combined with a liquid crystal display (LCD) or liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) display, which in turn had replaced the initial technology, the mini-CRT. As this chapter comes to press, the first HD-format OLED displays are becoming available for prototype development. The industry is currently working to supply a system that will receive widespread consumer acceptance (meaning millions of units need to be manufacturable in a period of months once a design point is selected). The system must be low cost (hundreds of dollars to the buyer), and approach an eyeglass format with resolution that approaches that of the human visual system extending into the peripheral FOV.

This chapter will first motivate the potential benefits of HWDs, especially in see-through mode, and examine key technology paths that build on historical highlights. Market barriers to the emergence of eyewear format HWDs will next be highlighted. We will then review optical architectures for see-through HWDs and key factors and functions required of a successful see-through HWD. Specifically, building on fundamentals of optical design, the key engineering concepts and constraints will be presented and solutions discussed. Particular emphasis will be placed on differentiating the concept of an eye pupil and an operational eyebox. Next, the Lagrange invariant (LI), which sets fundamental limits in the optical design of HWDs, will be examined. Following the presentation of see-through HWDs, two differentiated solutions will be presented; the head-mounted (worn) projection display (HMPD) and the retinal scanning display (RSD). The chapter will conclude with a brief discussion of current research that may affect the solution that the market selects, we might predict by 2020.


Augmented Reality Pixel Count Input Coupler Exit Pupil Holographic Optical Element 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

List of Abbreviations


Advanced Helmet Mounted Display


Aluminum indium Gallium Phosphide


Advanced Research Projects Agency


Augmented Reality


Computer Generated Hologram


Center of Mass


Cathode Ray Tube


Dual Microlenslet Array


Diffractive Optical Element


Eyebox Expansion


Ferroelectric Liquid Crystal on Silicon


Forward-Looking Infrared


Field of View


Gallium Nitride


Global Positioning System


High Definition


Helmet Integrated Display Sight System


Head or Helmet-Mounted Display


Head-Mounted Projection Display


Holographic Optical Element


Head-Worn Display


Head-Worn Video


Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS)


Interpupillary Distance


Indium Gallium Nitride


Liquid Crystal Display


Liquid Crystal on Silicon


Light Emitting Diode


Lagrange Invariant


Micro-Electro-Mechanical System


Microlens Array


Mixed Reality


Numerical Aperture


Optical Diagnostic and Applications Laboratory


Organic Light Emitting Display


Optical Research Associates


Personal Digital Assistant




Retinal Scanning Display


Substrate-Guided Relay


Total Internal Reflection


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Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jannick P. Rolland
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kevin P. Thompson
    • 2
  • Hakan Urey
    • 3
  • Mason Thomas
    • 4
  1. 1.University of RochesterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Synopsys, Inc., RochesterRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Koç UniversityIstanbulTurkey
  4. 4.Microvision Inc.RedmondUSA

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