ID Interviews Doug Kreysar, Chief Solutions Officer at Radiant Vision Systems
Doug Kreysar heads engineering, operations, and quality teams for Radiant Vision Systems, a company based in Redmond, Washington, that creates imaging systems for light and color measurement. Kreysar received a B.S. in physics from Vanderbilt University and an M.S. in applied physics from the University of Michigan. He is the author of multiple technical papers and has been awarded eight US patents.
Conducted by Jenny Donelan
Radiant Vision Systems has had a few name changes over the past 15 years. Could you walk us through the history behind those?
Radiant Imaging started out in 1992 as an optical-design company. We designed illumination systems – projectors, surgical lights, and similar items. At some point, the founders of the company decided it would be helpful to have imaging systems to measure their prototype designs, so they designed their own systems. Eventually, customers wanted to buy those camera systems as well as the designs. So our products grew out of in-house tools that we made. By 2002, we had pretty much converted from an optical-engineering company to one that created products.
By the late 2000s, we realized that if we were going to satisfy big production orders from companies that, for example, wanted to install large numbers of our systems on their production lines, we had to take some executive steps, such as creating a China office. That’s where displays are manufactured. If you’re going to do production testing, you have to have a big support team in China. So we added a China presence, and now have offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as in Seoul and in Washington, where our headquarters are.
In 2011, with the help of private equity, we merged with Zemax, a raytracing company. That merger enabled us to make those global investments and propelled us to the next level in terms of being able to support a wide range of customers.
ID: That’s when you became Radiant Zemax.
DK: Yes, we changed our name from Radiant Imaging to Radiant Zemax. Over the course of 2011 to 2015, we really focused on two major initiatives. One was making sure we could satisfy the production needs of customers all over the world, and the other was a new machine-vision sector, which we called Advanced Vision. We had been making high-end cameras with high-end software that enabled the detection of all sorts of defects in displays. And our customers asked: If you can detect these mura defects in my displays, what about scratches, dings, and defects in other parts of my device [like the back of a mobile phone] that are not lit up? This functionality required a machine-vision type of application that could detect the kinds of defects that human visual inspectors typically find.
Then, in 2015, Konica Minolta acquired Radiant Zemax as part of its Sensing group. Shortly before that we had divested Zemax, which now runs its raytracing
business on its own, and became Radiant Vision Systems. We have about 200 employees.
ID: At what point did you join the company?
DK: I actually started in 2000 as an optical engineer, so at the very end of our first phase. When we became a product company, I joined operations because I had a background in automotive, which is a highly disciplined area in terms of quality and production.
ID: Your newest product is an augmented-reality/virtual-reality (AR/VR) lens for testing. How did you come to develop that?
DK: I would love to claim that we had the wonderful foresight to develop this ahead of the market demand, but to tell the truth, our customers were pretty much hitting us over the head, saying you need to come up with something to give me the testing I want.
ID: When did this AR/VR demand begin?
DK: AR/VR started to get hot as far back as five years ago. About three years ago, there was specific demand from customers who said: I really want you to provide an off-the-shelf lens that can act as though it’s a human looking inside the goggles.
ID: What were some of the challenges of creating that kind of off-the-shelf AR/VR product?
DK: Metrology is difficult to begin with, but when you add a new lens to your known equipment, it can be very difficult to understand how to calibrate it. There are so many different “gotchas” for a lens that has to basically act as an eye inside an AR/VR system. You need a long barrel, with the “pupil” at the end, and you’ve also got to have a very wide field of view. Optically, that’s a challenge, as is getting a manufacturer to make all the high-quality optical components required. The right apertures and so on are critical.
Once you have the lens, you have to learn how to calibrate it for metrology. To get correct absolute measurements, we had to calibrate response non-uniformity, or “flat-field” calibrate, as well as having to remove lens distortion and calibrate for absolute luminance and color accuracy. The equipment we had for calibrating standard lenses was not appropriate for this new type of lens. So we had to develop all new equipment for this lens. But that’s the kind of thing we love doing.
ID: How has customer reaction been thus far?
DK: It’s been wonderful. We’ve probably gotten as good a reaction to the AR/VR lens as to any product we’ve ever come out with. It’s a hit. But there’s more work to be done. For example, what are the standards for testing near-to-eye displays? What are the distance units we’re going to use? What are the coordinates? These questions really need to be answered by the industry as a whole, as we all gather more experience on AR/VR device metrology.
ID: In terms of revenue stream, everybody in the display industry is always looking for the next big thing to replace TVs. To some extent, that’s the automotive market. But people are also looking to AR/VR. From your perspective, do you have a sense of whether AR/VR will be a shot in the arm for the display industry? Are people having successes with these products that might eventually make them ubiquitous?
DK: My answer revolves around the book and soon-to-become motion picture Ready Player One.1 Everybody at SID needs to make sure they have read, or when it comes out, watched, Ready Player One. It has a pretty dismal view of the future, and I don’t subscribe to that. But I do subscribe to the author’s interpretation of the potential popularity of VR. I think if you look at gaming applications alone, the market is huge. And when you talk about AR, be it medical or military or automotive applications, I think that market is huge as well. These AR applications are going to save people’s lives. So they will be put in place. I don’t think it’s an option. 3D, by contrast, is a bit of an option. In short, I’m very bullish on the AR/VR market.
ID: What kinds of AR applications do you think are the musts? The life-saving ones?
DK: First, there are military applications. If you are training people in an airlift space or in space exploration, all of your training can be done in a virtual world, which is such a savings in terms of expense and safety. In the medical space, AR opens up all sorts of new surgeries and techniques to enhance a surgeon’s capabilities. And finally, in automotive, you’re talking about enhancing our driving capability or of course coupling that with self-driving cars.
ID: What makes a successful metrology company? What are some of the best practices as well as some of the biggest challenges involved in your space?
DK: The problem with a metrology company is that so much of metrology is engineering. How do I get an accurate answer and how do I calibrate it? It’s extremely complicated. But your focus can’t just be on engineering. It has to be on the customer. The customer doesn’t care what product is being used to measure what they want. We care about the product, of course. It’s our product. But the customers care more about the result. Is it a pass/fail? What’s the uniformity of this display? What’s the color of this display?
So the most important thing is listening to your customer. And creating the product that your customer wants. If your customers are having difficulty measuring something and you can diagnose the problem and provide feedback and figure out how to fix it – that’s really quite exciting. Don’t just get caught up in your product; get caught up in your customer.
ID: Every customer must be sort of a one-off.
DK: Absolutely – that’s why my title is chief solutions officer. Every customer has their own personal
needs for solutions. They have their own assembly lines, and their own testing that they want to do on their products. Every product is unique, and so is the testing. Customers want that critical information needed to improve their product, their yield, and whatever else they want to improve. It’s critical that we have the software, hardware, and engineering expertise to provide that customer exactly what the customer wants.
ID: Do you have a sense of how large the overall market for metrology is right now?
DK: That’s a good question, but I’m going to deflect it by asking: What is metrology? Metrology in the historical sense translates to absolute units of whatever it is you’re measuring – the luminance of a display, the color, and so on. But is metrology also capturing blemishes and mura in a display? And what about scratches that are visible when you turn off the display? We think that demand — in terms of what is inspected by humans today and what we as suppliers can have inspected through advanced vision technology — is absolutely huge. The time is coming when you’re going to have factories making mobile phones without a human in that factory. Radiant Vision Systems wants to be part of the test and measurement equipment in that factory. That’s where I see metrology over the long term, and that’s where we want to take Radiant: developing advanced inspection products that support a fully automated factory. •
1Ready Player One is a 2011 science fiction novel by Ernest Cline that features a worldwide virtual-reality game. The movie based on the novel came out in late March of 2018.
This article is based on phone and email interviews conducted by Jenny Donelan, editor in chief of