Woman exploring Antelope Canyon with AR headset on.
Unleash immersion

Immersive visuals. Thin, comfortable devices. All with the help of 3M™ Optical Solutions.


Advanced optical solutions for AR/VR devices

You need to design a slim, lightweight VR/MR headset with immersive visuals that seamlessly converge virtual and physical worlds. The solution? Folded optics in the VR lens.

Folded optics or “pancake optics” is optical technology that folds the optical path, resulting in crisp imagery with a wide field of view (FOV) and a thinner overall device. 3M was the first company known to successfully demonstrate the viability of folded optics for VR/MR headsets by combining it with our proprietary reflective polarizer film technology.

We’ve been awarded more than 180 patents related to VR optics. See why some of the world’s most innovative brands work with us to commercialize solutions.

  • An eye looking through an exploded view of a 3M HARP Lens

    A look at the 3M™ HARP Lens

    2022 Society of Information Display Component of the Year

    • To demonstrate what’s possible in VR/MR, we developed the 3M™ High Acuity Reflective Polarizer (HARP) Lens — our own optical system design — and the results are in: 3M knows folded optics.
    • The 3M™ HARP Lens integrates a birefringent reflective polarizer used to produce compact, mid-FOV eyepieces and wide-FOV optics for VR head-mounted displays using folded optics in the lens configuration.
    • Extensive research and development, combined with our advanced optical systems modeling, helped us create a reference design to show what's possible with pancake optics.
    • Read the Society of Information Display news release
    • Whitepaper: Folded Optics with Birefringent Reflective Polarizers (PDF, 883 KB)


Farewell, Fresnel. Hello, pancake optics.

Compact VR/MR headsets. Stunning imagery. It’s just not possible with traditional Fresnel lenses. Optimize your entire design by integrating folded optics with 3M™ Image Quality Polarizer Films — with or without optically clear adhesives (OCAs) — into your optical module.

Exploded view of integrating folded optics with 3M™ Image Quality Polarizer Films

Stand out in a competitive market with confidence

The look and feel of a headset can make or break your success. With folded optics enabled by 3M™ Image Quality Polarizer Films, you can visually express your brand, and provide effortless wearability and comfort.

  • VR/MR headset showing the exploded view of 3M optics.
  • Design slim, comfortable headsets

    The days of massive, unflattering VR/MR headsets are over. In a Pegatron prototype headset using the 3M™ HARP Lens (our in-house folded optics design) we produced a 50% thinner lens module compared to a headset using a Fresnel lens module, resulting in a 40% thinner overall headset (based on prototype headset measurements). Less distance between the display and your eye means less overall plastic and weight — even the potential for less head bracing — for a balanced device design.

Deliver breathtaking immersion

The key to an immersive VR/MR experience? True-to-life imagery. Folded optics with 3M™ Image Quality Polarizer Films help people see what’s possible. Help increase contrast for workers reading text in enterprise applications. Help generate photorealistic visuals for consumers. Drive exciting possibilities for content creators everywhere.

  • Get high-quality images — even with the latest displays

    For true immersion, VR/MR headsets need crisp, clear imagery resolved from the display to the eye. Our reflective polarizer films allow you to transmit high-contrast, high-resolution images with a large eye box.

    You can also move on from bulky LCD displays and design with the latest compact MicroLED and MicroOLED displays without sacrificing image quality.

  • Two images of eye icons showing how 3M can help achieve crystal-clear images with a wide FOV and no god rays with reflective polarizer films from 3M.

    Achieve crystal-clear images with a wide FOV and no god rays with reflective polarizer films from 3M

Proven optical performance

The modulation transfer function (MTF) is a measure of the ability of a lens system to maintain the contrast of an object as it is imaged. As the resolution of the object increases, the MTF is degraded due to system aberrations.

  • Chart showing The 3M™ HARP Lens has demonstrated MTF of > 40% for spatial frequencies of 50 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) over a ± 25° field of view.
    Measured 3M™ HARP Lens MTF

    The 3M™ HARP Lens has demonstrated MTF of > 40% for spatial frequencies of 50 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) over a ± 25° field of view. This results in crisper imagery and improved text readability.

  • Table showing a comparison of 3M™ HARP Lens measured MTF to simulation
    Comparison of 3M™ HARP Lens measured MTF to simulation

    The MTF for both measured and modeled results are shown in the above table for select pixel resolutions at several field angles. MTF measurements have been shown to agree well with modeled results from Zemax. The 3M™ HARP Lens has demonstrated acceptable MTF for pixels as small as 9 microns.

  • Icon of a person with an AR/VR headset looking at a virtual

    More degrees of freedom for increased design flexibility

    You need to deliver the best possible image and navigate design constraints — our films can help. Whether your process requires 3D lamination or insert molding, our films can conform to the lens to create a curved reflective polarizer surface for even more design flexibility.

    Typical benefits include:

    • Wider field of view
    • Potential for more eye relief
    • Larger eye box
    • Increased magnification

Augmented reality

  • Woman wearing an augmented reality (AR) headset looking into the distance.

    Augmented reality (AR), or the ability to overlap the physical world with virtual imagery, offers exciting possibilities for work and play. See real-time health information during surgery or locate a specific paragraph from an ancient book.

    3M is working on AR solutions for a variety of applications and industries. Often seen in glasses-like form factors, we are also exploring various emerging applications, including opportunities in automotive windshields. Learn more about automotive applications.

Technical data sheets

Ready to design a next-generation AR/VR experience?

From the earliest stages of inspiration to final testing and manufacturing, we’re here to help.

Browse more solutions

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  • Disclaimer
    This information is intended for use by persons with the knowledge and technical skills to analyze, handle and use such information. The testing is based on tests performed at a 3M lab and may be based on a limited sample size. Your results may vary.