ZEISS at the IAA Mobility for the first time

Premiere of the new technology "Multifunctional Smart Glass"

Jena/Munich, Germany | 30 August 2023 | ZEISS Group

This year, ZEISS is presenting its holography product portfolio for the first time at the IAA Mobility in Hall B2, Stand B12, which will take place from September 5th-9th, 2023, in Munich. The basis is the ZEISS "Multifunctional Smart Glass" technology, which is about to enter the market in augmented reality head-up displays (HUD) for aircraft cockpits and has already been used for many years in space missions by ESA and NASA. In the future, holographic solutions will find their way into the automotive mass market to make driving safer, more interactive and more comfortable.

Replication technology allows production on an industrial scale for the first time

Space missions from ESA and NASA have relied on ZEISS components that use holographic processes, such as optical gratings for spectrometers for gas analysis, for many years. The holography technology from ZEISS is now so mature it is ideal for head-up displays (HUDs) due to its high-contrast, true-color and brilliant reproduction, thus opening the way to a completely new market.

The ZEISS Augmented Reality HUD technology will shortly be ready for series production for use in commercial aircraft. It offers decisive advantages over conventional HUDs, which have long been indispensable in aviation. These consist of a set of multiple complex lenses and mirrors, making them heavy and expensive. The ZEISS Augmented Reality HUDs project a complete field of view (field-of-view) as a virtual image and, thanks to their micro-optics technology, allow the installation space to be reduced from around 40 liters to less than ten. At the same time, they only weigh around a tenth of the conventional displays they are equal to in terms of performance criteria, such as image quality, field-of-view and image width.

"Gutenberg moment" for holography

With the use for automotive applications, the second step in the cascading of micro-optics technology is now taking place. Until now, ultra-compact, holographic augmented reality HUDs could only be produced in limited quantities. The replication technology developed in the ZEISS laboratories makes it possible for the first time to duplicate a master hologram in large quantities fully automatically.

The heart of the ZEISS technology is a transparent film on which ultra-high-precision optics are attached in the smallest of spaces. The film is characterized by a high level of transparency of over 92 percent and maximum clarity at the same time. It enables vehicle manufacturers to use holographic technology where space, weight and costs have not previously permitted it. Roman Kleindienst, Head of ZEISS Microoptics: “This technological milestone for holography can be compared to what the invention of letterpress printing meant for writing. That's why we also speak of the 'Gutenberg moment' for holography.”

Augmented Reality HUDs in the car: a clear advantage for safety and comfort

In the car, Advanced Augmented Reality HUDs have numerous advantages: Drivers can concentrate on the road and still receive the information they need without annoying defocusing. Information is selectively displayed in their field of vision if it is relevant or desired for them. This results in a significant safety advantage, especially compared to ever wider displays, which potentially carry the risk of distracting the driver. Additional benefits are the simple function and the additional comfort: For example, entertainment content can be projected directly into the field of vision for the front passenger. Even playing videos is possible.

Even without an augmented reality display, the projection technology offers a decisive safety advantage. Thanks to the integrated, transparent and functionalized film, less than one liter of space is required. All important information can thus be displayed in the lower area of the windshield - which enables a completely new vehicle cockpit design.

Above all, this applies because the transparent film is not only suitable for the driver's field of vision: its display function can also be used on the all-round glazing in the automobile. In this way, warning symbols or emojis on the rear or side window can be designed completely individually. Imported information on sights, restaurants or events is also possible.

Undreamt-of design freedom for vehicle interiors

More and more vehicles have cockpits in which only the safety-relevant operating elements are designed as mechanical controllers or buttons. The consequence: menu-driven, often not very intuitive operating of comfort functions via displays and touch screens. More and more customers and experts are criticizing this trend. Holographic solutions from ZEISS can effectively support current demands for design variety, individualization, functionalization and clean design, while at the same time guaranteeing maximum user-friendliness.

With its "Multifunctional Smart Glass" technology, ZEISS opens up a design freedom that has never existed before. A completely new design of the dashboard and the entire vehicle interior is possible with this technology - including individual configuration and updating over the life cycle.

"Floating switches" as holographic human-machine interfaces

A concise example of the new design options are the "floating switches". These are holographic 3D human-machine interfaces based on pioneering holographic technology from ZEISS. The heart of this technology is the unique transparent film that is already used in the head-up display.

It allows 3D control elements to be displayed holographically, i.e. purely through light projections, as switches or controls on clean black panel surfaces. This also opens completely new freedoms for designers when designing interiors and surfaces. The "floating switches" are only projected out of the surface when they are needed and are activated by voice command or gesture control. Their positioning can be controlled arbitrarily and individually. Defined positions for physical switches can be almost eliminated, while user feedback can be audio-visual or ultrasonic.

The "floating switches" can be realized with holographic technology. The holographic foil can be applied to any transparent or non-transparent surface. A homogeneous, painted surface outdoors is also suitable for displaying information. Applications for autonomous driving are conceivable - for example in Car2X communication - because content can be projected onto windows or body parts such as bumpers in a way that is easy for other road users to read. This makes driving safer, more comfortable and more interactive at the same time.

Invisible cameras or sensors

Thanks to their transparency of more than 92 percent, cameras or sensors - for example for distance cruise control or parking pilots outdoors, and for fatigue assistants in the interior - can be partially invisibly placed in the optical film and intelligently hidden. They remain invisible, but fully usable. In addition, those zones of a surface that are normally left out for cameras or sensors are also available for display projection.

Innovative lighting concepts

At its IAA booth, ZEISS is presenting another example of an application, thereby serving an automotive trend that was made possible by LED technology: the lighting of vehicles - inside and outside - has taken on a completely new meaning in recent years; both in terms of an adapted illumination strategy for the road when driving at night, in the form of "running indicators", but also as an individualization feature or to create personalized lighting moods.

Technologies from ZEISS can also make a decisive contribution in this area. The core is again the newly developed transparent film from the ZEISS high-tech laboratories. The light from one or more LEDs can be shaped by holographic surfaces in such a way that the viewer sees exactly the signature desired by the designer - a process known in holography as the reconstruction of a 3D object.

The technology developed by ZEISS allows almost unlimited design freedom for rear or brake light signatures. The exterior lighting solution from ZEISS is not only characterized by a reduction in installation space and weight, but also by particularly low energy consumption: the energy saving of LED light for holographic object conversion is more than 90 percent.

Function-on-demand supports innovative sales models

Another automotive trend is receiving new impetus thanks to innovations from ZEISS: Because the high-end hologram technology from ZEISS is completely software-controlled and therefore also designed as a function-on-demand. All equipment and performance features of holographic solutions can be booked later and transferred into the car over-the-air. ZEISS is thus supporting an increasingly important sales strategy for vehicle customization and an additional business model for OEMs.

Supplier of system technology instead of hardware producer

The innovative technology of the IAA world premiere has the potential to completely rethink parts and components in terms of design and function, in particular components that the group does not want to produce itself. “Our core competence from aerospace is optical design, the creation of master holograms and - as a world first - their replication in industrial format as a transparent film. We can make this technology available to any manufacturer or supplier who wants to add value and functionality to their products that are currently, if at all, accessible to astronauts and pilots. We are setting up a unique ecosystem for this: from the first cut to the finished hardware with unique consulting and design services. In the future, ZEISS should also be a name with weight in the automotive industry,” says Kleindienst.

Further Information

Press contact Nadine Tusche

Marketing and Communications
ZEISS Microoptics


ZEISS is an internationally leading technology enterprise operating in the fields of optics and optoelectronics. In the previous fiscal year, the ZEISS Group generated annual revenue totaling 8.8 billion euros in its four segments Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology, Industrial Quality & Research, Medical Technology and Consumer Markets (status: 30 September 2022).

For its customers, ZEISS develops, produces and distributes highly innovative solutions for industrial metrology and quality assurance, microscopy solutions for the life sciences and materials research, and medical technology solutions for diagnostics and treatment in ophthalmology and microsurgery. The name ZEISS is also synonymous with the world's leading lithography optics, which are used by the chip industry to manufacture semiconductor components. There is global demand for trendsetting ZEISS brand products such as eyeglass lenses, camera lenses and binoculars.

With a portfolio aligned with future growth areas like digitalization, healthcare and Smart Production and a strong brand, ZEISS is shaping the future of technology and constantly advancing the world of optics and related fields with its solutions. The company's significant, sustainable investments in research and development lay the foundation for the success and continued expansion of ZEISS' technology and market leadership. ZEISS invests 13 percent of its revenue in research and development – this high level of expenditure has a long tradition at ZEISS and is also an investment in the future.

With over 40,000 employees, ZEISS is active globally in almost 50 countries with around 30 production sites, 60 sales and service companies and 27 research and development facilities (status: 31 March 2023). Founded in 1846 in Jena, the company is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany. The Carl Zeiss Foundation, one of the largest foundations in Germany committed to the promotion of science, is the sole owner of the holding company, Carl Zeiss AG.

Further information at www.zeiss.com

About ZEISS Microoptics

ZEISS is the leading provider of sophisticated micro-optical and holographic-optical solutions for a variety of applications in the automotive, hometech and consumer sectors. The "Multifunctional Smart Glass" technology enables, among other things, large-scale holographic projection systems, highly integrated cameras in transparent media and holographic lighting applications. ZEISS Venture Microoptics is based in Jena, Germany, and offers the complete value chain from optical design and mastering to holographic replication systems for series production.

Press Photos

  • New ZEISS technology „Multifunctional Smart Glass“

    Ultra-compact, holographic augmented reality HUDs from ZEISS project a complete field of view as a virtual image onto the windshield.

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