Rainbows in your eyes: Harvard team creates a lens that could revolutionize VR

A team of very bright scientists working out of Harvard University's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have created a single 'metalens' that is capable of focusing the entire spectrum of visible light (including white light) into a single point.

This could be revolutionary for the world of VR, as this lens would theoretically mean a headset would be able to house a thin, relatively inexpensive display that is able to (in high resolution) use the full range of color we see in the natural world. 

The result of being able to use a single, flat lens that harnesses all the colors of the rainbow could result in smaller, cheaper, better headsets. Federico Capasso, senior author of the research said:

"Metalenses have advantages over traditional lenses, [they] are thin, easy to fabricate and cost effective. This breakthrough extends those advantages across the whole visible range of light. This is the next big step."

VR-ing with all the colors of the wind 

At the moment, most optical devices – including VR headsets – contain multiple bulky curved lenses. 

The reason for this is that light waves travel at different speeds, and so if a wide spectrum of light is shone through a flat lens, the different colors will reach your eye at different times, causing your eye to perceive them to be coming from different distances, causing a focusing issue called chromatic aberrations. 

Metalenses are flat alternatives to traditional lenses that work by using nanofins that coat the lens, focusing light. Before this breakthrough metalenses have been cheaper and easier to produce than traditional lenses but have been limited in the spectrum of light they are able to focus.

The paper was published in scientific journal Nature, and the metalens is already being licensed out to a startup for commercial development, so it may not be too long at all before we see this metalens in a VR headset available on the market.

Via Harvard

Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.