3M helped make virtual reality headsets smaller. Next step? More consumer demand

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    David Illitaro imagines opening this newspaper one day, looking for an article, and seeing the letters appear in front of him for easy reading. But there is no paper, just a virtual reality app that mimics the real thing.

    “We’re on the cusp of this being the next way people consume visual information from computers,” Iritaro said. “Content that supports all of these different uses is going to be the next big thing.”

    Iritaro is vice president of research and development for 3M’s Display Materials Division, which has been supporting VR headset manufacturers for a decade.

    3M’s “pancake optics” help reduce headset size while improving display quality. Both are important product improvements to VR’s efforts to get more consumers to buy the technology.

    As Minnesota-based 3M prepares to spin off its healthcare business and reposition the remaining company for growth, the industrial giant is applying its materials and technology to electric vehicles, industrial automation, and more. , climate change technology, virtualization and many more to come. and augmented reality.

    Sales of traditional consumer electronics such as phones, televisions and computers, a core business unit of 3M that typically generates more than $3 billion in annual sales, are slowing. Electronics sales fell 23% in the first half of the year, particularly on the back of weak consumer demand in China.

    Meanwhile, many market reports predict that VR hardware sales will reach billions of dollars in the next few years.

    “Like our customers, we are waiting for this to take off and we are already working on the next generation of this technology and the one after that,” said Iritaro.

    A Citi report last year said trillions of dollars could be spent in the metaverse and within it by 2030. The bank broadly defines the Metaverse as an immersive internet across devices.

    “We believe the Metaverse will ultimately help us find new and enhanced ways to conduct all of our current activities, including commerce, entertainment and media, education and training, manufacturing and enterprise in general.” the report said.

    The promise of the Metaverse has been touted for years, but it gained even more attention during the pandemic as workplaces and communities look for new ways to interact online. More recently, however, it has faced setbacks from tech companies laying off staff and shifting resources to artificial intelligence.

    “Like many industries, it goes through its own hype cycle,” said Nick Rose, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the VR/AR Association trade group. “The biggest problem for him is twofold: there aren’t enough devices on the market and content is still expensive.”

    Apple’s Vision Pro release this summer was seen as a breakthrough moment, but at a price point of $3,500, it would be used primarily by developers to continue pushing the boundaries of the technology’s uses. Rothes said.

    He expects it will take another 18 to 24 months to see real progress in terms of consumer affordability and accessibility.

    “You have to tell yourself that 90% of the population is unaware that this technology exists,” Rothes said. “It burns slowly.”

    After being approached by companies at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, it took 3M five years to figure out how to improve its VR headset.

    “They simply asked us if they could make the headset smaller,” Susan Kent, 3M’s research and development laboratory director, said earlier this year. “We quickly realized that we could improve the image quality and reduce the cartoonishness.”

    After 3M combined pancake lenses with patented reflective polarizer technology, the headset was able to bring the screen closer to the user’s face, allowing for crisp text while keeping the screen small. .

    3M has also developed optical films for heads-up displays, such as digital data displayed on the windshield of a car. This type of augmented reality is already widely adopted as opposed to fully immersive virtual headsets.

    “We are already living with augmented reality on our phones,” said Roces, pointing to Pokemon Go, IKEA Place and fashion try-on apps. “It blends information and the real world.”

    Headsets, heads-up displays and more were on display at the 3M Open in Blaine last month. As a golf tournament sponsor, 3M’s Fun Experience Tent is focused on giving a hands-on look at how its technology connects the physical and digital worlds—all things “physical.” I was.

    Golf games that included augmented reality putting tools were particularly popular.

    “From here on out, we’re going to do this at scale, at a volume and cost that customers can put these on hundreds of millions, billions of faces, not millions of faces,” Iritaro said. It will happen,’ he said.

    2023 Star Tribune.

    Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

    Quote: 3M helped make virtual reality headsets smaller. next step? More Consumer Demand (23 Aug 2023)

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