Osram Opto Semiconductors GmbH of Regensburg, Germany is launching its smallest ever sidelooking infrared LED. Based on the proven Firefly platform (used widely for LEDs in the visible spectrum), the 850nm-wavelength SFH 4055 is targeted primarily at eye-tracking systems in augmented and virtual reality headsets.
Eye-tracking systems use multiple infrared LEDs to illuminate users’ eyes and capture the light reflected back with camera sensors, allowing them to compute the position of the user’s pupil and work out what direction they are looking in. Incorporating this technology into virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) headsets requires infrared LEDs that are small enough to fit into glasses around eyepieces. The the new Firefly sidelooking LED has a footprint of just 1.0mm x 0.55mm, and a low height of just 0.325mm.
Intuitive interaction, less computing power
Eye tracking supports entirely new, highly intuitive forms of interaction in VR and AR applications and enables users to control software programs by directing their gaze. For example, AR glasses can display information that relates specifically to an object that a user has selected.
There is an added benefit for VR systems: they can exploit eye tracking to reduce the amount of computing power they require (a useful capability, given the need to render images extremely quickly so as to offer users a realistic experience). Image rendering requires computers that can deliver a lot of processing and graphics power. With eye tracking, these systems can focus on rendering images at a high resolution in the line of sight and maintain a lower resolution in the periphery.
Benefits for optical touchscreens too
Infrared transmitters, lasers and photodetectors from Osram are already in use in VR and AR solutions, and the first infrared Firefly will enable it to support new applications in this fast-growing market.
The SFH 4055 is generally aimed at applications that require exceptionally compact infrared transmitters. For example, optical touchscreens rely on very low-profile, side-emitting infrared LEDs to create a grid of infrared light used for detecting finger positions.