Moore’s Law And Augmented Reality Displays

Moore’s law won’t prevent you from developing better head-mounted displays for augmented reality (AR), but the law of etendue will, according to a member of Microsoft’s AR development team.

According to Bernard Kress, a partner optical architect for the computer software business, the unwritten “law” that has guided silicon-chip development for more than 50 years will not prevent optical augmented reality hardware from getting smaller and lighter in the future. Although the fundamental physics of light places restrictions on optical design, researchers can reduce the size of their augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) systems by using hybrid optical lenses and creating optical pipelines that are ever more complicated.

Moore’s law refers to Gordon Moore’s 1960s forecast that transistors on a silicon chip would double every 18 to 24 months. A lens that was 10 mm wide in 2008 would have shrunk to perhaps 50m by today if that rule applied to optics or if the size of optical components was to be halved every 18 months without any loss in functionality. That is not going to happen.

The law of etendue, which says that the sum of the beam diameter and beam angle is a constant, must be followed by optical scientists instead. Etendue can only be maintained or increased, analogous to the second rule of thermodynamics. It cannot be decreased.

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