Head-worn display design is inherently an interdisciplinary subject fusing optical engineering, optical materials, optical coatings, electronics, manufacturing techniques, user interface design, computer science, human perception, and physiology for assessing these displays. This paper summarizes the state-of-the-art in head-worn display design (HWD) and development. This review is focused on the optical engineering aspects, divided into different sections to explore principles and applications. Building on the guiding fundamentals of optical design and engineering, the principles section includes a summary of microdisplay or laser sources, the Lagrange invariant for understanding the trade-offs in optical design of HWDs, modes of image presentation (i.e., monocular, biocular, and stereo) and operational modes such as optical and video see-through. A brief summary of the human visual system pertinent to the design of HWDs is provided. Two optical design forms, namely, pupil forming and non-pupil forming are discussed. We summarize the results from previous design work using aspheric, diffractive, or holographic elements to achieve compact and lightweight systems. The applications section is organized in terms of field of view requirements and presents a reasonable collection of past designs.
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