Adaptive optics (AO) was proposed in the 50s [1], first implemented by the US military in the 70s [2] and then applied by European astronomers in the 1990 [3]. A ballpark estimate of the 20-year cost (1973-1993) of the US military programme is US$1 billion, and astronomy continues this high-cost tradition, a result of highly demanding requirements and "one-off" complex instruments. In contrast, one of the most innovative and impressive AO systems, incorporated into DVD readers/writers [4], is manufactured at a rate of 1 million a month for less than $1 per unit.

© 2009 Optical Society of America

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