BreakThrough Interview

Developing unprecedented technology for visual assistance or VR display: Drawing images on the retina with semiconductor lasersQD Laser Inc.

<Part 1 (2 Parts in Series)>

2020.12.10

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QD Laser, Inc. is a startup company engaged in the development of diverse semiconductor lasers. Through industry-academia collaboration, the company has succeeded in commercializing the quantum dot laser for the first time in the world. It has also developed "VISIRIUM Technology," the company's proprietary technology that uses laser light to draw images on the retina for visual assistance or AR display. Including these developments, the company has created numerous innovations and has been using them to help solve social issues. In this two-part series, we will introduce the company's technology, which has the potential to be applied to various applications, and the company's vision for product development and corporate collaboration, based on an interview with Mitsuru Sugawara, President of QD Laser.


Visual assistance tool based on a new laser mechanism

Unlike ordinary light that spreads in all directions, laser light is unidirectional and intense. Due to these properties, laser light has been used in a wide range of fields, including communications, medicine, and machining. In particular, since semiconductor lasers are compact, lightweight, and have high conversion efficiency, they are considered indispensable for the technologies that will bring the next-generation of digital innovation, such as various sensors, data recording and reproduction, and optical communications.

QD Laser, Inc. has been developing diverse technologies using light from such semiconductor lasers. Its technologies include semiconductor laser-based face recognition, biological inspection, precision laser machining, and highly efficient integrated circuits. "VISIRIUM Technology," which enables people to "see things" through an unprecedented mechanism, is also one of the company's technologies.

"By projecting laser light directly onto the retina through the pupil, even people whose vision cannot be corrected with eyeglasses, etc., will be able to obtain approximately 20/25 vision. It is not affected by the focal point of the eye. Overlaying texts and images on top of the actual view is also possible. Therefore, this technology has the potential to be applied to various applications such as AR."

Overlaying laser light of the three primary colors to draw an image on the retina

Why can laser light enable us to see things? People perceive the shapes and colors of things based on light information. That is, light taken in through the pupil is focused by the cornea and lens, which function like camera lenses, and forms an image on the retina, and by which we can recognize shapes and colors.

Images can be drawn on the retina using weak laser light of the three primary colors of light: red, blue, and green. Suppose an eyeglass-type display device that realizes this technology is created. In that case, people with corneal or lens diseases may be able to see things clearly without relying on the cornea or the focusing function of the lens. Based on such an idea, Mr. Sugawara made his first attempt in the display field.

"We presented our prototype at an exhibition, and received high praise from the audience, including teachers at schools for the blind. Then we began full-scale development. It was essential to ensure the safety of the technology, considering that laser light enters the human eyes. Further, we needed to determine the optimum thickness of the laser beam that would allow everyone to see high-resolution images. We also had difficulty creating and bundling lasers of the three primary colors in a way that would project a clear image."

Diverse potential for visual assistance or as an AR display tool

"RETISSA Display II," the latest model in the RETISSA series, which projects information input via HDMI onto the retina

Through a great deal of trial and error, the company refined "VISIRIUM Technology" and successfully commercialized the retinal scanning display, "RETISSA series." "RETISSA Medical," which has been approved for sale as a medical device, is a product that is specifically designed for visual assistance. It projects images taken by a camera installed in the center of an eyeglass-type display onto the retina. On the other hand, "RETISSA Display," which is intended for general users, projects information input from a smartphone or other device connected via an HDMI port, instead of an image taken by a camera, onto the retina.

"We can use the device as a visual assistance tool by projecting images taken by the camera installed on the device. We can also use it as an AR display tool, for example, by projecting subtitle information sent to the device via the Internet, and overlaying it on the image of a singing performer during an opera performance. Another possibility is that it can be used in manufacturing or other industries. People can see the operating instructions overlaid on the image of the equipment being operated."

In Part 2, we will introduce the quantum dot lasers that the company successfully commercialized for the first time in the world, points to keep in mind when developing technology, and the key to creating productive collaboration.


Series Solving social issues by taking advantage of diverse semiconductor laser technologies

Series 1 Developing unprecedented technology for visual assistance or VR display: Drawing images on the retina with semiconductor lasers
Series 2 Solving social issues by taking advantage of diverse semiconductor laser technologies

Company information

QD Laser Inc.

Mitsuru Sugawara, President and CEO

QD Laser, Inc. was launched in 2006 as a spin-off venture of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. The company engages in the development, manufacture, and social implementation of various semiconductor lasers and has developed its business widely into fields such as communication, laser machining, sensing, and displays. It is the first company in the world that successfully commercialized and mass-produced quantum dot lasers. Besides that, the company possesses a number of proprietary technologies, including "VISIRIUM Technology," which projects images directly onto the retina with laser light.

Coverage date November 5, 2020

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