Digital Optics Application Pools
When a new technology becomes integrated into consumer electronic devices, the industry generally agrees that this technology has entered the realm of mainstream technology. This has a double-edged sword effect: first, the technology becomes democratized and thus massively developed, but then it also becomes a commodity, and thus there is tremendous pressure to cut down the production and integration costs without sacrificing any performance.
Such a leap from high-technology research to mainstream industry can only be achieved if this technology has been developed through extensive and expensive academic and governmental projects, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Digital diffractive optics was introduced into research and academia as early as the 1960s, and the first industrial applications were seen as early as the 1960s (especially in spectroscopic applications and optical data storage). However, digital optics have long suffered from a lack of adequate fabrication tools, until the recent development of IC fabrication tools and replication technologies (CD replication and embossing), and thus have spent a long time as high tech curiosities, with no real industrial applications .
Digital holograms have been around a little longer; however, they have suffered mainly from materials problems (costs, MTBF, volume replication ...