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An Eye to the Past and a View of the Future

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If ever a single feature article embodied the spirit of an entire issue, I dare say it can be found in “From Viewfinders to Virtual Reality: The Evolution of Stereoscopic Lens Design,” (read article). In it, longtime contributor and one-time Photonics Spectra advisory board member Bruce Walker examines optics in two eras.

In the early 20th century, wooden stereoscopic viewers were commonplace in living rooms on both sides of the Atlantic, bringing historic landmarks, jungle safaris and other curiosities to life in three dimensions. Curiously, a hundred years later, a similar occurrence is taking place as depicted in television commercials saturating the air waves: young and old exploring new worlds using virtual reality (VR) headsets. Those headsets, as Walker observes, employ similar optics as the first stereoscopes from a century ago; he presents a new lens design that promises greater image quality and clarity for the next generation VR headset.

Past and future.

Those are the twin themes that bind our 50th anniversary issue. In “Here’s to the First 50 Years,” Laurin Publishing President Tom Laurin reflects on the early years of Optical Spectra, when Smith Corona typewriters and metal letter presses were the tools of the trade. And no retrospective would be complete without revisiting the first issue itself, in which founder Teddi Laurin asserts the unique role of the publication in chronicling advances in the widening field of optics — and the importance in doing so.

The late ‘60s and early ‘70s also saw the rise of microelectronics, which would spur technological advances and drive the world’s economies for decades to come. Today, a similar revolution is beginning with integrated photonics — the intersection of microelectronics and photonics.We hear from one of the pioneers of the field, John Bowers, who points to advances in autonomous vehicles, optical clocks, OCT, lab-on-a-chip and transceivers as transforming the areas of medicine, telecommunications, defense and other sectors in the years to come. See “The Revolution Has Just Begun.”

Along those themes our team of contributors each examines the future impact of photonic integrated circuits on various sectors, beginning with Marie Freebody’s “Medicine and Life Sciences,” (read article); Hank Hogan’s “Aerospace and Defense,”(read article); and science writer Valerie Coffey’s “Data Centers and Telecommunications” (read article). Also included is “Quantum Computing and Communications,” (read article).

And finally, don’t miss senior editor Justine Murphy’s overview of this year’s Prism Awards finalists.

Enjoy the issue!

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2017
EditorialMichael Wheeler

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