Alternative Text

Job Profiles

XR Optical Engineer

Alternative Text

Carter Gibson | Marketing Assistant | AIXR

24 Sep 2019 | 2 min read

What does an XR Optical Engineer do?

Optical Engineers are responsible for making XR persuasive visually.

Designers and developers can create intricate visual experiences, but they are often limited by advancements in hardware. As an optical engineer, you will model and prototype technologies to drive performance and achieve better visuals.

Optical engineers in XR are making use of many next generation technologies, such as Near-Eye Displays (NEDs), projectors, cameras and sensors.

What’s an XR Optical Engineer good at?


  • Technical Knowledge: you will be required to have a good understanding of many physics based concepts, such as structured light and depth sensing
  • Attention to Detail: optics must be optimised to the microscopic detail – and mistakes can be very costly!
  • Use of software: an optical engineer will have to use various design tools, depending on the organisation, this could include Zemax, CODE V, FRED and more.

Where can being an XR Optical Engineer take me?

As XR hardware companies race to become the AR or VR device with the sharpest visuals, an appropriately qualified optical engineer will have a lot of choice.

Being an optical engineer could land you a job at any company building XR hardware. You might work developing VR HMDs (head mounted displays), where the users view of surroundings is replaced by a near eye display inside the HMD.

Alternatively, you might be working on an AR headset, such as the imagined next generation AR glasses. This is an entirely different challenge, making a see through display that can have visuals superimposed on it. 

There are not many people sufficiently qualified to be an optical engineer, so if you do gain the necessary experience, you will be a very valued resource. 

How do I become an XR Optical Engineer?

A degree in optical engineering, physics or similar is a great start, but optics for VR are very different to traditional optics. You can make up for this by trying to specialise in areas utilised by XR, including but not limited to: structured light, depth sensing, polarization optics and optical metrology. It is a good idea to research your higher education institution and course to ensure they have the necessary resources and expertise for the field. Postgraduate study is also encouraged, to further specialise in XR. 

Out of university, you can get a job in a more traditional field to gain experience with design optical tools. Since XR is new, an optical engineer will likely end up doing a lot of applied research, so it is a good idea to look for experience in this area too. 

Pardon the interruption

Sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on everything XR.

Thanks, we'll be in touch!