Transparent Screens Make Real-Time AR a Possibility

Transparent augmented reality (AR) displays open possibilities for seeing digital content in real-time. The University of Melbourne, KDH Design Corporation, and the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication researchers developed the world’s first flexible, transparent augmented reality display screen using 3D printing and low-cost materials. The results will likely advance AR’s use across a wide range of industries and applications.

AR technology overlays digital content onto the real world, enhancing the user’s real-time perception and interaction with their environment. Previously, creating flexible AR technology that adjusts to different angles of light sources was a challenge. To date, mainstream AR manufacturing uses glass substrates, which require photo masking, lamination, and cutting or etching microstructure patterns. The processes are expensive, have a low yield rate, and are difficult to integrate with product appearance designs.

The researchers developed a transparent AR display screen using low-cost, optical-quality polymer and plastic. They used 3D printing in the fabrication process. KDH Design Corporation manufactures AR motorbike helmets and military goggles and plans to integrate the technology into the visor of head-worn devices, including AR glasses, AR sports goggles, AR helmets, and automotive displays. The display screen can bend and fit different shapes, like curved or uneven surfaces. The screen is also transparent, providing users with a natural, unobstructed view while overlaying digital content. 3D printing enables precise control over design and production for higher quality products and the potential for cost-effective and scalable mass manufacturing.

The technology has applications in gaming, education, healthcare, transport, and tourism. The next step is commercialization.

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