Facebook Patent | Display Device With Varifocal Optical Assembly

Patent: Display Device With Varifocal Optical Assembly

Publication Number: 20200081315

Publication Date: 20200312

Applicants: Facebook

Abstract

A varifocal optical assembly includes a plurality of optical elements configured to transmit light in successive optical stages. Each respective optical stage of the successive optical stages includes at least one respective optical element of the plurality of optical elements and is configurable to be in one of a first state and a second state. The respective optical stage in the first state has a first respective optical power for light of a first polarization and a second respective optical power for light of a second polarization. The respective optical stage in the second state has a third optical power for light of the first polarization and a fourth optical power for light of the second polarization. The optical power of varifocal optical assembly is adjustable by changing the states of one or more of the successive optical stages.

RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of, and priority to, U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/643,691, filed Mar. 15, 2018 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/772,598, filed Nov. 11, 2018. Both of these applications are incorporated by reference herein in their entireties.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] This relates generally to display devices, and more specifically to head-mounted display devices.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Head-mounted display devices (also called herein head-mounted displays) are gaining popularity as means for providing visual information to a user. For example, head-mounted displays are used for virtual reality and augmented reality operations. A head-mounted display often includes an electronic image source and an optical assembly.

[0004] When viewing objects at different distances, the fixation point of the eyes (vergence) and the focal distance (accommodation) are normally coupled. Accommodation is driven by retinal blur and is associated with the distance at which the eye focuses. Vergence is driven by binocular image disparity and is related to the fixation point of the eyes of a user. When displaying three-dimensional images in a near-eye display or a head-mounted display, the focal distance is typically fixed by the configuration of the image source and the optical assembly. Thus, when objects are simulated in three-dimensions as being at various distances from the user, the fixation point of the eyes (vergence) will adjust to view the displayed object, yet the focal distance (accommodation) remains fixed, leading to decoupling of vergence and accommodation, also known as vergence-accommodation conflict.

SUMMARY

[0005] In accordance with some embodiments, an optical assembly includes a plurality of optical elements configured to transmit light in successive optical stages. Each respective optical stage of the successive optical stages includes at least one respective optical element of the plurality of optical elements and configurable to be in any of a plurality of states including a first state and a second state. In the first state, the respective optical stage has a first respective optical power for light of a first polarization and a second respective optical power, different from the first respective optical power, for light of a second polarization that is orthogonal to the first polarization. In the second state, the respective optical stage has a third optical power for light of the first polarization and a fourth optical power for light of the second polarization. An overall optical power of the optical assembly is variable by configuring one or more of the successive optical stages.

[0006] In some embodiments, one or more optical stages of the successive optical stages includes an optical element of a first type and an optical element of a second type. The optical element of the first type is configurable to be in an “off” state or an “on” state. In the “off” state, the optical element of the first type converts light of the first or second polarization into light of the second or first polarization, respectively. In the “on” state, the optical element of the first type transmits incident light without changing its polarization. The optical element of the second type is configured to receive light transmitted through the optical element of the first type and has an optical power that is dependent on whether the light transmitted through the optical element of the first type has the first polarization or the second polarization.

[0007] In some embodiments, one or more optical stages of the successive optical stages include an active optical element. The active optical element is configurable to be in an “off” state or an “on” state. In the “off” state, the active optical element has an optical power that is dependent on whether light incident on the active optical element has the first polarization or the second polarization. In the “on” state, the active optical element transmits the incident light without changing its polarization or direction.

[0008] In accordance with some embodiments, a display device includes a display configured to emit image light and an optical assembly configured to transmit the image light emitted from the display. The optical assembly includes a plurality of optical elements configured to transmit light in successive optical stages. Each respective optical stage of the successive optical stages includes at least one respective optical element of the plurality of optical elements and configurable to be in any of a plurality of states including a first state and a second state. In the first state, the respective optical stage has a first respective optical power for light of a first polarization and a second respective optical power, different from the first respective optical power, for light of a second polarization that is orthogonal to the first polarization. In the second state, the respective optical stage has a third optical power for light of the first polarization and a fourth optical power for light of the second polarization. An overall optical power of the optical assembly is variable by configuring one or more of the successive optical stages.

[0009] In accordance with some embodiments, a method includes transmitting light through an optical stack having a plurality of stages and adjusting a focal length of the optical stack by changing respective states of one or more optical stages of the plurality of optical stages. Each stage of the plurality of optical stages is configurable to be in any of a plurality of states including a first state and a second state. In the first state, the respective optical stage has a first respective optical power for light of a first polarization and a second respective optical power, different from the first respective optical power, for light of a second polarization that is orthogonal to the first polarization. In the second state, the respective optical stage has a third optical power for light of the first polarization and a fourth optical power for light of the second polarization.

[0010] Thus, the disclosed embodiments provide display devices with adjustable optical power to decrease eye fatigue and improve user comfort and satisfaction with such devices.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] For a better understanding of the various described embodiments, reference should be made to the Description of Embodiments below, in conjunction with the following drawings in which like reference numerals refer to corresponding parts throughout the figures. The figures are not drawn to scale unless indicated otherwise.

[0012] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a display device in accordance with some embodiments.

[0013] FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a system including a display device in accordance with some embodiments.

[0014] FIG. 3A is an isometric view of a display device in accordance with some embodiments.

[0015] FIGS. 3B-3C illustrate a varifocal optical assembly in a display device in accordance with some embodiments.

[0016] FIG. 4A illustrates a varifocal optical assembly in accordance with some embodiments.

[0017] FIG. 4B illustrates a varifocal optical assembly in accordance with some embodiments.

[0018] FIGS. 5A-5N illustrate optical properties of optical elements in a varifocal optical assembly in accordance with some embodiments.

[0019] FIGS. 6A-6D are schematic diagrams illustrating a Pancharatnam-Berry phase lens in accordance with some embodiments.

[0020] FIGS. 6E-6H are schematic diagrams illustrating a polarization sensitive hologram lens in accordance with some embodiments.

[0021] FIG. 7A illustrate optical paths of light through a varifocal optical assembly in accordance with some embodiments.

[0022] FIGS. 7B-7C show examples of different configurations of a varifocal optical assembly in accordance with some embodiments.

[0023] FIGS. 8A-8B illustrate a display device that includes a varifocal optical assembly in accordance with some embodiments.

[0024] FIG. 9 illustrates a method of adjusting the focal length of light transmitted through a varifocal optical assembly in accordance with some embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0025] The disclosed embodiments provide a varifocal optical assembly and a display device (e.g., a head-mounted display device) including the varifocal optical assembly. The varifocal optical assembly includes multiple adjustable stages that allow for the varifocal optical assembly to have adjustable optical power such that a perceived distance of a displayed image of an object is adjustable to match the vergence of the user’s eyes. Thus, the disclosed embodiments can be used to reduce the vergence-accommodation conflict that a user may experience while using the display device, thereby increasing the user’s overall comfort and enjoyment while using the display device.

[0026] Reference will now be made to embodiments, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide an understanding of the various described embodiments. However, it will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that the various described embodiments may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known methods, procedures, components, circuits, and networks have not been described in detail so as not to unnecessarily obscure aspects of the embodiments.

[0027] It will also be understood that, although the terms first, second, etc. are, in some instances, used herein to describe various elements, these elements should not be limited by these terms. These terms are used only to distinguish one element from another. For example, a first light projector could be termed a second light projector, and, similarly, a second light projector could be termed a first light projector, without departing from the scope of the various described embodiments. The first light projector and the second light projector are both light projectors, but they are not the same light projector.

[0028] The terminology used in the description of the various described embodiments herein is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting. As used in the description of the various described embodiments and the appended claims, the singular forms “a,” “an,” and “the” are intended to include the plural forms as well, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. It will also be understood that the term “and/or” as used herein refers to and encompasses any and all possible combinations of one or more of the associated listed items. It will be further understood that the terms “includes,” “including,” “comprises,” and/or “comprising,” when used in this specification, specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps, operations, elements, and/or components, but do not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, steps, operations, elements, components, and/or groups thereof. The term “exemplary” is used herein in the sense of “serving as an example, instance, or illustration” and not in the sense of “representing the best of its kind.”

[0029] FIG. 1 illustrates display device 100 in accordance with some embodiments. In some embodiments, display device 100 is configured to be worn on a head of a user (e.g., by having the form of spectacles or eyeglasses, as shown in FIG. 1) or to be included as part of a helmet that is to be worn by the user. When display device 100 is configured to be worn on a head of a user or to be included as part of a helmet, display device 100 is called a head-mounted display. Alternatively, display device 100 is configured for placement in proximity of an eye or eyes of the user at a fixed location, without being head-mounted (e.g., display device 100 is mounted in a vehicle, such as a car or an airplane, for placement in front of an eye or eyes of the user). As shown in FIG. 1, display device 100 includes display 110. Display 110 is configured for presenting visual contents (e.g., augmented reality contents, virtual reality contents, mixed reality contents, or any combination thereof) to a user.

[0030] In some embodiments, display device 100 includes one or more components described herein with respect to FIG. 2. In some embodiments, display device 100 includes additional components not shown in FIG. 2.

[0031] FIG. 2 is a block diagram of system 200 in accordance with some embodiments. The system 200 shown in FIG. 2 includes display device 205 (which corresponds to display device 100 shown in FIG. 1), imaging device 235, and input interface 240 that are each coupled to console 210. While FIG. 2 shows an example of system 200 including one display device 205, imaging device 235, and input interface 240, in other embodiments, any number of these components may be included in system 200. For example, there may be multiple display devices 205 each having associated input interface 240 and being monitored by one or more imaging devices 235, with each display device 205, input interface 240, and imaging devices 235 communicating with console 210. In alternative configurations, different and/or additional components may be included in system 200. For example, in some embodiments, console 210 is connected via a network (e.g., the Internet) to system 200 or is self-contained as part of display device 205 (e.g., physically located inside display device 205). In some embodiments, display device 205 is used to create mixed reality by adding in a view of the real surroundings. Thus, display device 205 and system 200 described here can deliver augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality.

[0032] In some embodiments, as shown in FIG. 1, display device 205 is a head-mounted display that presents media to a user. Examples of media presented by display device 205 include one or more images, video, audio, or some combination thereof. In some embodiments, audio is presented via an external device (e.g., speakers and/or headphones) that receives audio information from display device 205, console 210, or both, and presents audio data based on the audio information. In some embodiments, display device 205 immerses a user in an augmented environment.

[0033] In some embodiments, display device 205 also acts as an augmented reality (AR) headset. In these embodiments, display device 205 augments views of a physical, real-world environment with computer-generated elements (e.g., images, video, sound, etc.). Moreover, in some embodiments, display device 205 is able to cycle between different types of operation. Thus, display device 205 operate as a virtual reality (VR) device, an augmented reality (AR) device, as glasses or some combination thereof (e.g., glasses with no optical correction, glasses optically corrected for the user, sunglasses, or some combination thereof) based on instructions from application engine 255.

[0034] Display device 205 includes electronic display 215, one or more processors 216, eye tracking module 217, one or more locators 220, one or more position sensors 225, one or more position cameras 222, memory 228, controller 231, optics 260 or a subset or superset thereof (e.g., display device 205 with electronic display 215, one or more processors 216, and memory 228, without any other listed components). Some embodiments of display device 205 have different modules than those described here. Similarly, the functions can be distributed among the modules in a different manner than is described here.

[0035] One or more processors 216 (e.g., processing units or cores) execute instructions stored in memory 228. Memory 228 includes high-speed random access memory, such as DRAM, SRAM, DDR RAM or other random access solid state memory devices; and may include non-volatile memory, such as one or more magnetic disk storage devices, optical disk storage devices, flash memory devices, or other non-volatile solid state storage devices. Memory 228, or alternately the non-volatile memory device(s) within memory 228, includes a non-transitory computer readable storage medium. In some embodiments, memory 228 or the computer readable storage medium of memory 228 stores programs, modules and data structures, and/or instructions for displaying one or more images on electronic display 215.

[0036] Electronic display 215 displays images to the user in accordance with data received from console 210 and/or processor(s) 216. In various embodiments, electronic display 215 may comprise a single adjustable display element or multiple adjustable display elements (e.g., a display for each eye of a user).

[0037] In some embodiments, the display element includes one or more light emission devices and a corresponding array of spatial light modulators. A spatial light modulator is an array of electro-optic pixels, opto-electronic pixels, some other array of devices that dynamically adjust the amount of light transmitted by each device, or some combination thereof. These pixels are placed behind optics 260 In some embodiments, the spatial light modulator is an array of liquid crystal based pixels in an LCD (a Liquid Crystal Display). Examples of the light emission devices include: an organic light emitting diode, an active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, a light emitting diode, some type of device capable of being placed in a flexible display, or some combination thereof. The light emission devices include devices that are capable of generating visible light (e.g., red, green, blue, etc.) used for image generation. The spatial light modulator is configured to selectively attenuate individual light emission devices, groups of light emission devices, or some combination thereof. Alternatively, when the light emission devices are configured to selectively attenuate individual emission devices and/or groups of light emission devices, the display element includes an array of such light emission devices without a separate emission intensity array.

[0038] Optics 260 direct light from the arrays of light emission devices (optionally through the emission intensity arrays) to locations within each eyebox and ultimately to the back of the user’s retina(s). An eyebox is a region that is occupied by an eye of a user located proximity to display device 205 (e.g., a user wearing display device 205) for viewing images from display device 205. In some cases, the eyebox is represented as a 10 mm.times.10 mm square. In some embodiments, optics 260 include one or more coatings, such as anti-reflective coatings.

[0039] In some embodiments, the display element includes an infrared (IR) detector array that detects IR light that is retro-reflected from the retinas of a viewing user, from the surface of the corneas, lenses of the eyes, or some combination thereof. The IR detector array includes an IR sensor or a plurality of IR sensors that each correspond to a different position of a pupil of the viewing user’s eye. In alternate embodiments, other eye tracking systems may also be employed.

[0040] Eye tracking module 217 determines locations of each pupil of a user’s eyes. In some embodiments, eye tracking module 217 instructs electronic display 215 to illuminate the eyebox with IR light (e.g., via IR emission devices in the display element).

[0041] A portion of the emitted IR light will pass through the viewing user’s pupil and be retro-reflected from the retina toward the IR detector array, which is used for determining the location of the pupil. Alternatively, the reflection off of the surfaces of the eye is used to also determine location of the pupil. The IR detector array scans for retro-reflection and identifies which IR emission devices are active when retro-reflection is detected. Eye tracking module 217 may use a tracking lookup table and the identified IR emission devices to determine the pupil locations for each eye. The tracking lookup table maps received signals on the IR detector array to locations (corresponding to pupil locations) in each eyebox. In some embodiments, the tracking lookup table is generated via a calibration procedure (e.g., user looks at various known reference points in an image and eye tracking module 217 maps the locations of the user’s pupil while looking at the reference points to corresponding signals received on the IR tracking array). As mentioned above, in some embodiments, system 200 may use other eye tracking systems than the embedded IR one described herein.

[0042] Optional locators 220 are objects located in specific positions on display device 205 relative to one another and relative to a specific reference point on display device 205. A locator 220 may be a light emitting diode (LED), a corner cube reflector, a reflective marker, a type of light source that contrasts with an environment in which display device 205 operates, or some combination thereof. In embodiments where locators 220 are active (i.e., an LED or other type of light emitting device), locators 220 may emit light in the visible band (e.g., about 400 nm to 750 nm), in the infrared band (e.g., about 750 nm to 1 mm), in the ultraviolet band (about 100 nm to 400 nm), some other portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, or some combination thereof.

[0043] In some embodiments, locators 220 are located beneath an outer surface of display device 205, which is transparent to the wavelengths of light emitted or reflected by locators 220 or is thin enough to not substantially attenuate the wavelengths of light emitted or reflected by locators 220. Additionally, in some embodiments, the outer surface or other portions of display device 205 are opaque in the visible band of wavelengths of light. Thus, locators 220 may emit light in the IR band under an outer surface that is transparent in the IR band but opaque in the visible band.

[0044] Imaging device 235 generates calibration data in accordance with calibration parameters received from console 210. Calibration data includes one or more images showing observed positions of locators 220 that are detectable by imaging device 235. In some embodiments, imaging device 235 includes one or more still cameras, one or more video cameras, any other device capable of capturing images including one or more locators 220, or some combination thereof. Additionally, imaging device 235 may include one or more filters (e.g., used to increase signal to noise ratio). Imaging device 235 is configured to optionally detect light emitted or reflected from locators 220 in a field of view of imaging device 235. In embodiments where locators 220 include passive elements (e.g., a retroreflector), imaging device 235 may include a light source that illuminates some or all of locators 220, which retro-reflect the light towards the light source in imaging device 235. Second calibration data is communicated from imaging device 235 to console 210, and imaging device 235 receives one or more calibration parameters from console 210 to adjust one or more imaging parameters (e.g., focal length, focus, frame rate, ISO, sensor temperature, shutter speed, aperture, etc.).

[0045] Input interface 240 is a device that allows a user to send action requests to console 210. An action request is a request to perform a particular action. For example, an action request may be to start or end an application or to perform a particular action within the application. Input interface 240 may include one or more input devices. Example input devices include: a keyboard, a mouse, a game controller, data from brain signals, data from other parts of the human body, or any other suitable device for receiving action requests and communicating the received action requests to console 210. An action request received by input interface 240 is communicated to console 210, which performs an action corresponding to the action request. In some embodiments, input interface 240 may provide haptic feedback to the user in accordance with instructions received from console 210. For example, haptic feedback is provided when an action request is received, or console 210 communicates instructions to input interface 240 causing input interface 240 to generate haptic feedback when console 210 performs an action.

[0046] Console 210 provides media to display device 205 for presentation to the user in accordance with information received from one or more of: imaging device 235, display device 205, and input interface 240. In the example shown in FIG. 2, console 210 includes application store 245, tracking module 250, and application engine 255. Some embodiments of console 210 have different modules than those described in conjunction with FIG. 2. Similarly, the functions further described herein may be distributed among components of console 210 in a different manner than is described here.

[0047] When application store 245 is included in console 210, application store 245 stores one or more applications for execution by console 210. An application is a group of instructions, that when executed by a processor, is used for generating content for presentation to the user. Content generated by the processor based on an application may be in response to inputs received from the user via movement of display device 205 or input interface 240. Examples of applications include: gaming applications, conferencing applications, video playback application, or other suitable applications.

[0048] When tracking module 250 is included in console 210, tracking module 250 calibrates system 200 using one or more calibration parameters and may adjust one or more calibration parameters to reduce error in determination of the position of display device 205. For example, tracking module 250 adjusts the focus of imaging device 235 to obtain a more accurate position for observed locators on display device 205. Additionally, if tracking of display device 205 is lost (e.g., imaging device 235 loses line of sight of at least a threshold number of locators 220), tracking module 250 re-calibrates some or all of system 200.

[0049] In some embodiments, tracking module 250 tracks movements of display device 205 using second calibration data from imaging device 235. For example, tracking module 250 determines positions of a reference point of display device 205 using observed locators from the second calibration data and a model of display device 205. In some embodiments, tracking module 250 also determines positions of a reference point of display device 205 using position information from the first calibration data. Additionally, in some embodiments, tracking module 250 may use portions of the first calibration data, the second calibration data, or some combination thereof, to predict a future location of display device 205. Tracking module 250 provides the estimated or predicted future position of display device 205 to application engine 255.

[0050] Application engine 255 executes applications within system 200 and receives position information, acceleration information, velocity information, predicted future positions, or some combination thereof of display device 205 from tracking module 250. Based on the received information, application engine 255 determines content to provide to display device 205 for presentation to the user. For example, if the received information indicates that the user has looked to the left, application engine 255 generates content for display device 205 that mirrors the user’s movement in an augmented environment. Additionally, application engine 255 performs an action within an application executing on console 210 in response to an action request received from input interface 240 and provides feedback to the user that the action was performed. The provided feedback may be visual or audible feedback via display device 205 or haptic feedback via input interface 240.

[0051] FIG. 3A is an isometric view of display device 300 in accordance with some embodiments. FIG. 3A shows some of the components of display device 205, such as electronic display 205 and optics 260. In some other embodiments, display device 300 is part of some other electronic display (e.g., a digital microscope, a head-mounted display device, etc.). In some embodiments, display device 300 includes light emission device array 310 and optical assembly 330. In some embodiments, display device 300 also includes an IR detector array.

[0052] Light emission device array 310 emits image light and optional IR light toward the viewing user. Light emission device array 310 may be, e.g., an array of LEDs, an array of microLEDs, an array of OLEDs, or some combination thereof. Light emission device array 310 includes light emission devices 320 that emit light in the visible light (and optionally includes devices that emit light in the IR).

[0053] In some embodiments, display device 300 includes an emission intensity array configured to selectively attenuate light emitted from light emission array 310. In some embodiments, the emission intensity array is composed of a plurality of liquid crystal cells or pixels, groups of light emission devices, or some combination thereof. Each of the liquid crystal cells is, or in some embodiments, groups of liquid crystal cells are, addressable to have specific levels of attenuation. For example, at a given time, some of the liquid crystal cells may be set to no attenuation, while other liquid crystal cells may be set to maximum attenuation. In this manner, the emission intensity array is able to control what portion of the image light emitted from light emission device array 310 is passed to optical assembly 330. In some embodiments, display device 300 uses an emission intensity array to facilitate providing image light to a location of pupil 350 of eye 340 of a user, and minimize the amount of image light provided to other areas in the eyebox.

[0054] Optical assembly 330 receives the modified image light (e.g., attenuated light) from emission intensity array (or directly from emission device array 310), and direct the modified image light to a location of pupil 350.

[0055] In some embodiments, display device 300 includes one or more broadband sources (e.g., one or more white LEDs) coupled with a plurality of color filters, in addition to, or instead of, light emission device array 310.

[0056] FIGS. 3B and 3C illustrate display device 302, corresponding to display device 300, in accordance with some embodiments. Display device 302 includes a display 360, a lens assembly 362, and a varifocal optical assembly 364. Referring to FIG. 3B, varifocal optical assembly 364 is configured to have a first optical power such that objects displayed by display 360 is perceived by a user’s eye 340 to be at a first image plane 366, located at a first distance 361 behind display 360. In contrast, FIG. 3C shows varifocal optical assembly 364 configured to have a second optical power that is different from (in this case, greater than) the first optical power. Thus, the objects displayed by display 360 is perceived by a user’s eye 340 to be at a second image plane 368, located at a second distance 363 behind display 360 that is further than first distance 361. Although FIGS. 3B and 3C show lens assembly 362 located between display 360 and varifocal optical assembly 364, varifocal optical assembly 364 may also be located between display 360 and lens assembly 362.

[0057] FIG. 4A illustrates a varifocal optical assembly 400 corresponding to varifocal optical assembly 364 in accordance with some embodiments. Optical assemblies, in general, can be used to provide focusing power for a display device. The disclosed embodiments utilize varifocal optical assembly 400 to enable display devices to have adjustable optical power. In some embodiments, varifocal optical assembly 400 corresponds to optical assembly 330. In some embodiments, optics 260 includes varifocal optical assembly 400.

[0058] As shown in FIG. 4A, varifocal optical assembly 400 includes a plurality of successive optical stages 420-1, 420-2, … , 420-n (also referred to herein as “optical stage 420”) configured to transmit light (e.g., light 401) at various optical powers. Except for a first optical stage 420-1, each respective optical stage of the successive optical stages receives incident light that is output from a prior stage. For example, as shown, second optical stage 420-2 receives light 401-2 that is output from first stage 420-1. In some embodiments, each respective stage of the successive optical stages 420 is configurable to be in any of a plurality of states including a first state and a second state. In the first state, the respective optical stage has a first respective optical power for light of a first polarization and a second respective optical power, different from the first respective optical power, for light of a second polarization that is orthogonal to the first polarization. In the second state, the respective optical stage has a third optical power for light of the first polarization and a fourth optical power for light of the second polarization. As a result, an overall optical power of varifocal optical assembly 400 is variable by configuring one or more of the successive optical stages 420.

[0059] In some embodiments, varifocal optical assembly 400 is configured to have an overall optical power that can be at any of at least three different levels of optical power for two optical stages (e.g., n=2). For example, varifocal optical assembly 400 having two stages may have a variable overall optical power that can be any of at least three different values, such as -2 diopters, 0 diopters, and +2 diopters. In further embodiments, varifocal optical assembly 400 is configured to have an overall optical power that can be at any of at least four different levels of optical power for two or more optical stages (e.g., n>=2). For example, varifocal optical assembly 400 can have a variable overall optical power that can be any of at least four different values, such as -1.5 diopters, -0.5 diopters, +0.5 diopters, and +1.5 diopters when, for example, varifocal optical assembly 400 includes two optical stages, one optical stage with a switchable retarder and a PBP lens having 0.5 or -1.5 diopter optical power, and another optical stage with a switchable retarder and a PBP lens having 0.5 or -0.5 diopter optical power. In further embodiments, varifocal optical assembly 400 is configured to have an overall optical power that can be at any of at least four different levels of optical power for two or more optical stages (e.g., n.gtoreq.2). For example, varifocal optical assembly 400 can have a variable overall optical power that can be any of at least four different values, such as -1.5 diopters, -0.5 diopters, +0.5 diopters, and +1.5 diopters, when, for example, varifocal optical assembly 400 includes at least two stages, one optical stage (e.g., an active PBP lens) having -1, 0, or 1 diopter optical power, and another optical stage (e.g., a switchable retarder and a PBP lens) having -0.5, or +0.5 diopter optical power, or when, for example, varifocal optical assembly 400 includes more than two stages, such as the examples shown in FIGS. 7B and 7C. In another example, varifocal optical assembly 400 can have a variable overall optical power that can be any of at least five different values, such as -1.5 diopters, -0.5 diopters, 0, +0.5 diopters, and +1 diopters, when, for example, varifocal optical assembly 400 includes at least two stages that each have at least one active second optical element (e.g., active PBP lens). For example, one optical stage having -1, 0, or 1 diopter optical power and another optical stage having -0.5, 0, or +0.5 diopter optical power. The overall optical power can have a larger number of different levels of optical power by adding more stages, or by including one or more stages each having an active liquid-crystal optical phase array adjustable lens with continuously tunable optical power within a certain range. In some embodiments, varifocal optical assembly 400 may further include one or more optical elements 405 before the first optical stage and/or one or more optical elements 406 after a last optical stage 420-n.

[0060] FIG. 4B illustrates an example of varifocal optical assembly 400, in which each of the successive optical stages 420 includes a pair of optical elements, at least one of which is configurable to be in either of two different states, according to some embodiments. Thus, as shown in FIG. 4B, varifocal optical assembly 400 may include a plurality of optical elements of a first type 410-1, 410-2, … , 410-m, and 410-n (also referred to herein as “first optical elements 410” or “optical elements of the first type 410”) and a plurality of optical elements of a second type 412-1, 412-2, … , 412-m, and 412-n (also referred to herein as “second optical elements 412” or “optical elements of the second type 412”).

[0061] In some embodiments, the plurality of optical elements of the first type 410 and the plurality of optical elements of the second type 412 form a plurality of pairs of optical elements corresponding to an optical stage. In such cases, a respective pair of optical elements, corresponding to an optical stage 420, includes a respective optical element of the first type 410 and a respective optical element of the second type 412. The respective optical element of the first type 410 is configurable via a respective controller 414 to be in a first optical element state or a second optical element state. In the first optical element state, the respective optical element of the first type 410 converts light of a first or second polarization into light of a second or first polarization, respectively. The first polarization is orthogonal to the second polarization. In the second optical element state, the respective optical element of the first type 410 transmits incident light without changing its polarization. The respective optical element of the second type 412 has a first respective optical power for light of a first polarization and a second respective optical power, different from the first optical power, for light of a second polarization that is orthogonal to the first polarization. The respective optical element of the second type 412 is configured to receive light transmitted through the respective optical element of the first type 410.

[0062] The optical stages 420 are arranged successively in the optical stack such that light is transmitted through the optical stack in a plurality of successive optical stages 420. In some embodiments, the plurality of successive optical stages 420 correspond to respective ones of the plurality of optical element pairs. In some embodiments, the state of a respective optical stage 420 corresponds to the state of the optical element of the first type 410 associated with the respective optical stage. As shown, the optical stack has an input side and an output side. A first optical stage 420-1, corresponding to a first optical element pair, is located at the input side of the optical stack and a last optical stage 420-n, corresponding to a last optical element pair, is located at the output side of the optical stack. Additionally, in some embodiments, the optical stack also includes one or more additional stages (e.g., additional optical stages 420-2, … , 420-m), referred to hereafter collectively or individually as additional optical stages 422, between the first stage and the last stage.

[0063] In some embodiments, as shown in FIG. 4B, each optical element pair includes a first optical element 410 and a second optical element 412 that is configured to receive light transmitted through the first optical element 410. The first optical element 410 is electrically connected to controller 414 (e.g., controller 414-1, 414-2, 414-m, or 414-n), referred to hereafter individually and collectively as 414, which is configured to control (e.g., adjust) the state of first optical element 410.

[0064] The first optical element 410 is configurable to be in a first optical element state (e.g., an “off” state) or a second optical element state (e.g., an “on” state). In the first optical element state, first optical element 410 is configured to convert incident light to transmitted light having different polarization from that of the incident light. In the second optical element state, first optical element 410 is configured to transmit incident light without changing its polarization. For example, when first optical element 410 is set to the first state, left circularly polarized (LCP) light incident upon first optical element 410 will be transmitted as right circularly polarized (RCP) light, and vice versa. In contrast, when first optical element 410 is set to the second state, incident upon first optical element 410 will be transmitted without a change in its polarization (e.g., LCP light remains LCP and RCP light remains RCP). In some embodiments, the first optical element 410 is a switchable retarder or switchable wave plate, such as a switchable half-wave plate.

[0065] The second optical element 412 has a first respective optical power for light of a first polarization and a second respective optical power, different from the first optical power, for light of a second polarization that is orthogonal to the first polarization.

[0066] In some embodiments, the second respective optical power is less than the first respective optical power. In some embodiments, the second respective optical power is zero. For example, second optical element 412 may have a first optical power that is non-zero for RCP light and is configured convert the RCP light to LCP light while converging or diverging (depending on the first optical power) the RCP light. The second optical element is also configured to transmit LCP light without changing the direction or polarization of the LCP light.

[0067] In some embodiments, the second respective optical power is about equal in magnitude to the first respective optical power but is opposite in effect from the first respective optical power. For example, second optical element 412 may act as a positive lens that has an optical power of +0.5 diopters for RCP light and may act as a negative lens that has an optical power of -0.5 diopters for LCP light. Thus, the optical power of the second optical element 412, and therefore the optical power of the corresponding optical stage, is based on the state of the corresponding first optical element 410 and the polarization of light incident on the respective optical stage.

[0068] In some embodiments, the second optical element 412 is a polarization sensitive optical element. In some embodiments, the second optical element 412 includes one or more of a Pancharatnam-Berry phase (PBP) lens (also called a geometric phase lens), a PBP grating (also called a geometric phase grating), a polarization sensitive hologram (PSH) lens, a PSH grating, and a liquid crystal optical phase array. Details regarding PBP lens and PSH lens are provided below with respect to FIGS. 6A-6D and FIGS. 6E-6H, respectively.

[0069] In some embodiments, the second optical element 412 includes a thin film formed on a surface of the corresponding first optical element. For example, the second optical element 412 may be a coating or a thin film that is located/deposited on a surface of the corresponding first optical element 410.

[0070] In some embodiments, a respective second optical element 412 has a respective optical power. In some embodiments, a magnitude of the optical power of any second optical element 412 is no greater than 2.0 diopters (e.g., the optical power is no stronger than -2 diopters or +2 diopters). In some embodiments, a second optical element 412 of an optical stage has an optical power that is different from another second optical element 412 of another optical stage. In some embodiments, the second optical element 412 -1 of the first optical stage 420-1 has a first optical power and the last optical element 412-n of the last optical stage 420-n has a second optical power that is different from the first optical power. In some embodiments, the second optical power is larger in magnitude than the first optical power.

[0071] In some embodiments, as shown in FIG. 4B, one or more of the successive optical stages 420-1, 420-2, … , 420-n each includes an active second optical element 412 that is configurable via a respective controller 416 (e.g., controllers 416-1, 416-2, 416-m, 416-n) to be in any of a third optical element state (e.g., an “off” state) and a fourth optical element state (e.g., an “on” state). In the third optical element state, the active second optical element 412 is configured to have the first respective optical power for incident light having the first polarization and the second respective optical power for incident light having the second polarization. In the fourth optical element state, the active second optical element 412 is configured to have zero optical power and is configured to transmit the incident light without exerting optical power regardless of polarization of the incident light. In some embodiments, such as when the second optical element 412 is an active PSH optical element, the second respective optical power is zero. In some embodiments, such as when the second optical element is an active PBP optical element, the second respective optical power is equal in magnitude and opposite in effect to the first respective optical power. As a result, a particular optical stage (e.g. stage 420-2) including a first optical element (e.g., optical element 410-2) and an active second optical element (e.g., optical element 412-2) can have more than two different states depending on the states of the first optical element and the active second optical element in the particular stage.

[0072] In some embodiments, one or more optical stages of the successive optical stages 420 includes only one of a first optical element 410 and an active second optical element 412. For example, an optical stage of the successive optical stages 420 may include active second optical element without including first optical element 410.

[0073] In general, the optical stack is configured to receive light at the input end, transmit the light through the optical stack (e.g., through the first optical stage 420-1, the one or more additional stages 422, and the last optical stage 420-n), and output the light at the output end of the optical stack such that the divergence of the light is changed.

[0074] Thus, the overall optical power of varifocal optical assembly 400 is adjustable by adjusting or changing the respective states of the optical stages 420.

[0075] In some embodiments, when an optical stage 420 includes an optical element pair, the overall optical power of varifocal optical assembly 400 can be adjusted by adjusting or changing the respective states of the first optical elements 410 in the plurality of optical stages 420. The optical power of the optical stack can be changed by switching the state of the first optical elements 410 in any optical stage, thereby changing the optical power of the optical stage. The optical powers of the successive optical stages 420 in combination determine the resultant total optical power of the optical stack.

[0076] FIGS. 5A-5D illustrate optical properties of an optical stage (e.g., optical stage 420) corresponding to an optical element pair 500 of a varifocal optical assembly (e.g., varifocal optical assembly 400) in accordance with some embodiments. Optical element pair 500 includes a switchable optical element 510, corresponding to first optical element 410, that is electrically coupled to controller 514, corresponding to controller 414. In some embodiments, switchable optical element 510 is a switchable half-wave plate.