Microsoft Patent | Compact optical system with MEMS scanners for image generation and object tracking

Patent: Compact optical system with MEMS scanners for image generation and object tracking

Publication Number: 10175489

Publication Date: 2019-01-08

Applicants: Microsoft

Abstract

An optical system that deploys micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) scanners to contemporaneously generate CG images and to scan a terrain of a real-world environment. An illumination engine emits a first spectral bandwidth and a second spectral bandwidth into an optical assembly along a common optical path. The optical assembly then separates the spectral bandwidth by directing the first spectral bandwidth onto an image-generation optical path and the second spectral bandwidth onto a terrain-mapping optical path. The optical system deploys the MEMS scanners to generate CG images by directing the first spectral bandwidth within the image-generation optical path and also to irradiate a terrain by directing the second spectral bandwidth within the terrain-mapping optical path. Accordingly, the disclosed system provides substantial reductions in both weight and cost for systems such as, for example, augmented reality and virtual reality systems.

Background

Near-Eye-Display (NED) systems superimpose computer-generated images (“CG images”) over a user’s view of a real-world environment. For example, a NED system may generate composite views to enable a user to visually perceive a CG image superimposed over a visually perceived physical object that exists within the real-world environment. In some instances, a user experience is dependent on the NED system accurately identifying characteristics of the physical object and then generating the CG image in accordance with these identified characteristics. For example, suppose that the NED system is programmed to generate a user perception that a virtual gaming character is running towards and ultimately jumping over a real-world structure. To achieve this user perception, the NED system may be required to obtain detailed data defining features of a terrain around the NED.

Conventional NED systems include a range of tracking devices such as cameras and LiDAR systems that are dedicated to monitoring characteristics of a terrain or objects of a real-world environment around the NED system. Despite being beneficial to system functionalities, the added weight and bulk of such dedicated tracking systems prevents conventional NED systems from reaching a size and weight that is comfortable enough for users to readily adopt for daily use.

Summary

Technologies described herein provide an optical system that deploys micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) scanner(s) for both generating CG images within a user’s perspective of a real-world environment and also for mapping a terrain of the real-world environment and/or tracking one or more objects within the real-world environment. In some configurations, an illumination engine emits electromagnetic (EM) radiation into an optical assembly, wherein the EM radiation includes both a first spectral bandwidth for generating CG images and a second spectral bandwidth for scanning a field of view utilizing a terrain-mapping protocol. The optical assembly may cause the first spectral bandwidth and the second spectral bandwidth to propagate along a common optical path and then separate the first spectral bandwidth from the second spectral bandwidth. In particular, the optical assembly directs the first spectral bandwidth from the common optical path onto an image-generation optical path to generate CG images via a display while also directing the second spectral bandwidth from the common optical path onto a terrain-mapping optical path to scan a terrain of the real-world environment, thereby irradiating one or more objects within the real-world environment. As used herein, the term terrain-mapping refers generally to the process of scanning light over a field of view and by receiving light reflected from features of a terrain, determining terrain features of a real-world environment around the optical system. Features, characteristics and/or spatial distributions of surfaces of a terrain of a real-world environment can be scanned and data defining such features can be generated by the optical system. For example, a terrain-mapping protocol may be deployed to map features of surfaces within a room such as a piece of furniture, a table, or a couch, a structural feature of a building such as a wall or an edge of the wall, or even void spaces such as a hallway or an open doorway. In some implementations, terrain-mapping can include mapping features of a terrain within three dimensions, and generated data defining the features can be any suitable format, e.g., point-cloud data, or any other suitable 3-dimensional data representation of a real-world environment. In some implementations, terrain-mapping can include tracking one or more objects within the terrain, e.g., tracking a ball that travels across a terrain-mapping field-of-view, tracking hand gestures that can be interpreted as user commands, etc. The optical system may deploy the MEMS scanner(s) to generate CG images by directing the first spectral bandwidth within the image-generation optical path and also to irradiate the object by scanning the second spectral bandwidth within a field of view. The disclosed optical system thus eliminates the need for both a dedicated image-generation optical system and a dedicated terrain-mapping optical system within a device that requires these dual functionalities such as, for example, an NED device. Accordingly, the disclosed optical system represents a substantial advance toward producing compact and lightweight NED devices.

In an illustrative embodiment, an optical system includes at least one controller that transmits output signals to an illumination engine for modulating generation of multiple spectral bandwidths of EM radiation that is transmitted into an optical assembly. The EM radiation includes a first spectral bandwidth for generating CG images that are perceptible by a user and a second spectral bandwidth for deploying a terrain-mapping protocol to identify features of the user’s real-world environment, e.g., physical objects proximate to the user and/or the optical system. It should be appreciated that in various embodiments, a terrain-mapping protocol may be deployed to map a terrain in general and/or to track a specific object of interest. A specific object of interest can be tracked, for example, to track a user’s hand orientation and/or position, to track an object that a user is holding, etc. The first spectral bandwidth may include some or all of the visible-light portion of the EM spectrum whereas the second spectral bandwidth may include any portion of the EM spectrum that is suitable to deploy a desired terrain-mapping protocol. As a specific but non-limiting example, the first spectral bandwidth may span from roughly three-hundred and ninety nanometers (390 nm) to roughly seven-hundred nanometers (700 nm), while the second spectral bandwidth may be a narrower band that is centered on the eye-safe fifteen-hundred and fifty nanometers (1550 nm) wavelength. In some embodiments, the second spectral bandwidth includes at least some of the ultraviolet portion of the EM spectrum. In some embodiments, the second spectral bandwidth includes at least some of the infrared portion of the EM spectrum other than 1550 nm. These examples are provided for illustrative purposes and are not to be construed as limiting.

The optical assembly may include a common optical path on which both the first spectral bandwidth and the second spectral bandwidth propagate, e.g., when the EM radiation initially enters the optical assembly. The optical assembly further includes one or more optical elements to split the path of the first spectral bandwidth and the second spectral bandwidth, thereby directing the second spectral bandwidth onto a terrain-mapping optical path. In one example, the optical assembly includes a dielectric mirror that reflects the second spectral bandwidth from the common optical path onto the terrain-mapping optical path, and transmits the first spectral bandwidth from the common optical path onto the image-generation optical path. The foregoing description is for illustrative purposes only should not be construed as limiting of the inventive concepts disclosed herein. It should be appreciated that other techniques for separating bandwidths of light along varying optical paths may also be deployed. For example, in some embodiments, the optical assembly may separate the first spectral bandwidth from the second spectral bandwidth based on differences between respective polarization states of the spectral bandwidths.

The first spectral bandwidth that propagates along the image-generation optical path is ultimately transmitted from the optical assembly into a display component such as, for example, a waveguide display that comprises diffractive optical elements (DOEs) for directing the first spectral bandwidth. For example, the first spectral bandwidth may be transmitted into an in-coupling DOE of the waveguide display that causes the first spectral bandwidth to propagate through at least a segment of the waveguide display by total internal reflection until reaching an out-coupling DOE of the waveguide assembly that projects the first spectral bandwidth toward a user’s eye. The second spectral bandwidth that propagates along the terrain-mapping optical path is ultimately emitted from the optical assembly into the real-world environment to irradiate the object for object tracking purposes (e.g., including mapping a terrain without any specific focus on and/or interest in a particular object). For example, the second spectral bandwidth may be emitted from the optical assembly to “paint” an object with a structured light pattern that may be reflected and analyzed to identify various object characteristics such as a depth of the object from the optical system, surface contours of the object, or any other desirable object characteristic. It can be appreciated that terrain mapping via structured light is a process of projecting a predetermined pattern of light (e.g., lines, grids and/or bars of light) onto a field of view or a terrain of a real-world environment. Then, based on the way that the known pattern of light deforms when striking surfaces of the terrain, the optical system can calculate other data defining depth and/or other surface features of objects stricken by the structured light. For example, the optical system may include a sensor that is offset from the optical axis along which the structured light pattern is emitted wherein the offset is configured to exacerbate deformations in the structured light patterns that are reflected back to a sensor. It can be appreciated that the degree to which the structured light pattern deforms may be based on a known displacement between the source of the structured light and a sensor that detects reflections of the structured light.

The optical system may also include one or more MEMS scanners that are configured to dynamically control various directions at which the EM radiation is reflected into the optical assembly. The MEMS scanner(s) may be configured to scan within a single direction or multiple directions (e.g., by rotating about one or more rotational-axes) to scan the first spectral bandwidth within an image-generation field-of-view (FOV) to generate the CG images via the display, and also to scan the second spectral bandwidth within the terrain-mapping FOV. In various implementations, the optical system may contemporaneously deploy the MEMS scanner(s) to direct both the first spectral bandwidth for generating CG images that are perceptible to a user and also the second spectral bandwidth for scanning a terrain, e.g., irradiating the features of the real-world environment. In some implementations, the one or more MEMS scanners may be deployed to scan light according to a fixed scanning pattern such as, for example, a fixed raster pattern. For example, the one or more MEMS scanners may include a first MEMS scanner that is configured to perform a fast scan according to a fixed raster pattern and a second MEMS scanner that is configured to perform a slow scan (which may or may not be performed according to the fixed raster pattern). The optical system may further include a sensor to detect a reflected-portion of the second spectral bandwidth that strikes one or more surfaces of the object and that is ultimately reflected back to the optical system. In particular, the sensor detects the reflected-portion and generates corresponding object data that is indicative of the various object characteristics. The at least one controller may monitor the object data generated by the sensor to determine the various object characteristics.

It should be appreciated that any reference to “first,” “second,” etc. items and/or abstract concepts within the description is not intended to and should not be construed to necessarily correspond to any reference of “first,” “second,” etc. elements of the claims. In particular, within this Summary and/or the following Detailed Description, items and/or abstract concepts such as, for example, individual polarizing beam splitters (PBSs) and/or wave plates and/or optical path segments may be distinguished by numerical designations without such designations corresponding to the claims or even other paragraphs of the Summary and/or Detailed Description. For example, any designation of a “first wave plate” and “second wave plate” of the optical assembly within a paragraph of this disclosure is used solely to distinguish two different wave plates of the optical assembly within that specific paragraph–not any other paragraph and particularly not the claims.

These and various other features will be apparent from a reading of the following Detailed Description and a review of the associated drawings. This Summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This Summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended that this Summary be used to limit the scope of the claimed subject matter. Furthermore, the claimed subject matter is not limited to implementations that solve any or all disadvantages noted in any part of this disclosure.

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