Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, in his interview in Europe with Bright publications in October said,
“AR is a profound technology that will affect everything. …We are really going to look back and think about how we once lived without AR”.
As it can be seen there is a surge in interests and investments in AR/VR market due to the recent focus by industry leading companies such as Meta, Microsoft, Apple and others. To make it a reality, there is a real need for many technological developments and multiple challenges need to be resolved. Display technology developments are critical for AR/VR/MR devices.
The Meta Quest Pro uses pancake optics which reduces the depth of optical module by 40% while providing clear and sharp visuals, according to Meta. Two LCD displays with local dimming and quantum dot technology provide richer and more vivid color. With the use of miniLED backlights (500 individual LEDs) the display has 75% more contrast compared to the MetaQuest 2. The Meta Quest Pro also has 37% more pixels per inch (PPI) and 10% greater pixels per degree than Meta Quest 2, making everything from reading text to playing games look better.
The company also reported 25% improvements in full-field visual sharpness in the center view, 50% improvements in the peripheral region, and 1.3X larger color gamut than Meta Quest 2. Meta Quest Pro uses dual LCDs (2.48”), with miniLED backlight and Quantum dot technology, 1800 x 1920 resolution per eye and 1200 PPI pixel density. This is the first time Meta has introduced a QD and MiniLED dual LCD-based device.
Quantum Dot & MiniLED technology Empowers LCD
As it has been seen in applications such as TV, IT, Tablets and other products, by the use of muti-zone blinking backlights, miniLED with QD (Quantum Dots) has enabled LCD to have higher brightness, very high contrast, excellent HDR, thin form-factor, superior power efficiency and display performance close to OLED. MiniLED-based products with QDs with higher picture quality, more competitive prices, higher product availability and brands focus (for product differentiation) have resulted in higher shipment growth for large LCD products for TV, IT, gaming and other products in the last few years.
Can QD and MiniLED also empower LCD for AR/VR /MR devices? Meta being the leader in terms of shipments in VR market, more brands may follow Meta. The cost of the combination of miniLED and QD can be high, limiting its use only to high end enterprise devices especially in the near term. The benefit of having QD and miniLED to improve visual performance can still help to increase adoption rates.
QD technology can help to increase color gamut, give higher brightness, increase power efficiency and improve speed. Immersive AR/VR/MR displays can use QD to improve visual performance. Nanosys is the world’s leading pioneer in the commercial application of Quantum Dot technology. According to Jeff Yurek, VP of Marketing at Nanosys,
“Speed is an underappreciated advantage for quantum dots in displays of all types. It turns out the speed of the backlight really matters. For optimal image quality, you really want the backlight and the LCD to be in perfect sync. Quantum dots enable this with ultra-fast, nanosecond response times. But, with slower phosphors like KSF, you are faced with a choice: either turn the backlight on before you open the LCD shutter, which exacerbates haloing artifacts and increases lag time, or, turn the backlight on in sync with the LCD shutter and live with cyan instead of white while the red warms up. These artifacts are visible even at 24p but when you start talking about refresh rates over 90hz and pairing that with hundreds or thousands of miniLED zones, speed becomes critical”.
Display requirements are different for VR (and pass-through AR) and see-through AR. For VR (and pass-through AR) most displays are based on TFT LCD and AMOLED. In general, immersive display needs are as follows:
- High resolutions (high pixel density to reduce or eliminate the screen door effect).
- High brightness
- High contrast
- Wide color gamut
- High refresh rates (and short duty cycle to reduce motion sickness).
- High PPD (Pixel Per degree)
- Widest Field of View (FOV)
- Compact design
LCD: Strong presence through high PPI and MiniLED
LCD is the leading technology in the VR market. Advanced LTPS TFT LCD is generally used for VR for high resolutions displays. It has already achieved more than 1200PPI. Companies such as JDI are targeting 2000 to 2500PPI resolutions in the next two to three years. Local dimming backlights with miniLED can lower power consumption and optimize the image for higher contrast. Fast response LC (liquid crystal) with high-speed backlight switching can offer a clearer image. According to JDI an impulse display, needed for better motion display, is realized by applying a global blinking backlight. The efficiency of backlight blinking results in shortening the display “on” time and minimizes “ghosting”, thereby providing a clearer image. According to LCD suppliers:
LCD is the best technology for 2-3-inch size displays for VR-HMD as it provides a wide field of view (HFV), which is a critical factor for an immersive VR-HMD.
Companies are also starting to use miniLED backlights for LCD for higher contrast and lower power consumption. The Varjo Aero ($1900) has two miniLED LCDs and the Pimax Reality (12K QLED) ($2399) has two miniLED LCD panels (200Hz refresh rates and QD layer for high color gamut, 6K per eye resolution with 1200PPI) and are already in the market.
OLED on Silicon (SiOLED): Poised for dominance with very high resolution & high luminance
OLED on Silicon (OLED Micro Display) are viewed through an optical system and generally have higher pixel density than AMOLEDs. OLED on silicon (SiOLED) is a common technology used to implement MicroOLEDs. It can be used both for VR and see-through AR. MicroOLED displays can be generally categorized into RGB OLED and White OLED (WOLED) types. However high resolution RGB OLED microdisplays still face challenges due to a shadow effect during the deposition process using FMM (Fine Metal Mask).
White OLED uses a color filter to generate image which can achieve high PPI (4000PPI). However the color filter absorbs a very high percentage of the emitted light and that limits maximum brightness for microOLED. Sony has been using microLens technology to increase the peak brightness of its OLED microdisplays.
Kopin has developed a trio stack architecture to increase brightness.
eMagin has developed a direct patterning RGB OLED micro display. It has achieved 10,000 nits of brightness in a WUXGA (1920 x 1200) OLED microdisplay, made by direct patterning (eliminating the color filter) of red, green, and blue(RGB) sub-pixel emitters on the backplane. The red and green emitters were made from phosphorescent materials and blue from fluorescent material. This has enabled significant improvement in efficiency and lifetime. They have roadmap to develop 30,000 nits full color peak luminance.
According to DSCC forecast, LCD will have the dominant shipment share in the AR/VR market up to 2025. By 2027, SiOLED will represent 48% of all AR/VR display shipments. DSCC expects Apple’s new Reality Pro Product (2H 2023) to have dual microOLED plus one AMOLED display with a pixel density of >3000 PPI. Apple’s adoption of SiOLED technology and technology progress will help SiOLED to gain higher market share in future. According to the company forecast, VR (including pass through AR) will be a much bigger market for display suppliers than see through AR.
QD and MiniLED LCD-based VR/MR devices by the use of muti zone blinking backlights, can enable LCD to have higher brightness, very high contrast, excellent HDR, compact form-factor, superior power efficiency and higher display performance. MiniLED-based products with QDs with higher picture quality, more competitive prices, higher product availability and brands focus (for product differentiation) can empower LCD to keep higher market share and also help to open up new opportunities for higher revenue. (SD)
Sweta Dash, President, Dash-Insights
Sweta Dash is the founding president of Dash-Insights, a market research and consulting company specializing in the display industry. For more information, contact email@example.com or visit www.dash-insights.com