Display specialists Kopin have unveiled a tiny, high resolution OLED ‘microdisplay’ designed specifically for the use inside immersive headsets. It’s dubbed ‘Lightning’ and it could open the door to a thinner and lighter form of VR headset.

Myriad VR hardware continues to be announced at CES 2017 as the space still remains one of the technology industry’s hot topics. Among them, a tiny new display from a company called Kopin, one that’s not only interesting but potentially extremely pertinent to next generation VR hardware.

Kopin, a company who designs and manufactures displays (among other components), are extending their reach to immersive headsets. They’ve debuted a new display called ‘Lightning’, an OLED microdisplay boasting a 2048 x 2048 pixel resolution and an impressive 120Hz refresh rate at a diminutive size of 1 inch diagonal. On top of that, the display boasts low power consumption, low heat dissipation, and a low refresh latency of 10 microseconds.

In order to demonstrate the display as a solution for mobile VR, Kopin have integrated it with their own patented optics dubbed ‘Pantile’. Using these, Kopin state they can wring a 90 degree FOV (Field of View) from the displays, all in a form factor that is no larger than a thick pair of glasses, according to a new report.

kopin-logo-1In the past, microdisplays were seen as unsuitable for immersive HMDs as lens technology couldn’t provide the high magnification needed for such small displays without exhibiting distortion and artefacts. Today we have companies who are starting to develop novel optical solutions that get around this, bending light innovative compared with traditional lenses in order to achieve high FOV. The company eMagin for example debuted a similar solution with 2k by 2k per eye and with their own specialized optics technology to provide a 100 degree FOV.

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Kopin’s optics seem to be using something similar to fresnel technology, which both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift use. However, thanks to the ridged nature (see image inside the Vive consumer headset below) of this lens type, we’ve seen that fresnel optics produce ‘god ray’ or visible ‘ringing’ artifacts that can distract from the VR experience. It’s unknown yet how much of a problem that poses for these new optics – which in conjunction with this tiny new display must magnify more greatly – may exacerbate certain artifacts like those. On the other hand, Kopin has shown interest in providing the display to customers and partners, so coupled with advanced optics from other sources, the end result could be less visual issues.

htc-vive-lenses-2Some other interesting details about the new microdisplay is the ability for Kopin to manufacture at $50 per panel, at least according to John Fan, the CEO of Kopin, who said as much in a recent interview. Fan also teased that their roadmap for “late 2017” was to increase the display’s resolution to 3k x 3k. For comparison, the Rift and Vive are 1080 x 1200 per eye so, if successful, Kopin’s new display could triple that resolution.

We’ve not yet seen’s Kopin’s technology in action yet of course, and clearly there are some significant challenges to overcome as detailed above. But if the company can pull it off, we could see that dream ‘sunglasses’ form factor for VR devices a little sooner than we expected.

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  • VRgameDevGirl

    Sounds awesome#!!!

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Higher resolution with lesser FOV is far from awesome.

      • VRgameDevGirl

        Im just saying the technology behind it is awesome. Imagine a few years from now. Take a chill pill.

        • Alan Myrdal Terceiro

          Yeah, it IS awesome! And the article says they are improving the lenses for better FOV, so it might have the same FOV eventually. Awesome anyway… ;)

  • El_MUERkO

    2k by 2k is awesome, but I’d love a 3:2, 16:9 etc ratio for wider fields of view

    • ʞǝɹɐɯ sɐɯoʇ

      What’s the point of fields of view. This display is for VR goggles, where you’ll get one for each eye.

      • Nathan Casey

        He’s saying that a 1 by 1 inch display will not produce a high fov thus not very immersive.

        • PacoBell

          FoV != Aspect Ratio. And FoV covers the vertical axis as well.

  • “to 3k x 3k. For comparison, the Rift and Vive are 1080 x 1200 per eye” More like 7x the resolution. 1200*1080 = 1.3MP vs 3000×3000 = 9MP

    To clarify the math above, 2k x 2k would then be 4MP or 3x the resolution of Rift and Vive now.

    • Alan Myrdal Terceiro

      Not really. It might be roughly 7x the total pixel count but that’s not 7x the resolution. To double the resolution you need to double the pixel count in each direction (X and Y) so you need 4x the total number of pixels.

      • LordV

        No your wrong, Rainabba is correct.

        • Alan Myrdal Terceiro

          it’s ok… no worries

          • Jerald doerr

            still all mixed up… forget everything and just talk about one screen.. one eye.. because it totally confuses people to simply add x2… lol

      • “Resolution” refers to the total number of pixels in a given display though when you qualify “resolution” with “horizontal” or “vertical”, the context is changed dramatically.

        For example, when discussing a 2k x 2k display vs a 4k x 4k display, if you say “the horizontal resolution is 2x” (4000 vs 2000) and the “vertical resolution is 2x” (4000 vs 2000), both statements are true, but “the resolution is 4x” (4000 vs 16000) is also true because it refers to the total resolution, not the horizontal or vertical components.

        Pixel density is calculated by taking the total resolution and dividing by the total display area unless again, you qualify “horizontal” or “vertical” where you would then divide the horizontal or vertical resolution by the horizontal or vertical display size respectively.

        This is how the terms are used correctly on digital displays. TV broadcast standards take a different approach.

        In case you’d like more reference (beyond my professional knowledge having worked with Samsung, Oculus, Sony, RedBull and such): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Display_resolution

        As for the 7x: “1200*1080 = 1.3MP vs 3000×3000 = 9MP”. The math is pretty clear.

        • Alan Myrdal Terceiro

          Yes, you are right. Thanks for taking the time to clarify. I work in TV/Film, so I normally think of resolution as pixel density. I think “pixel density” would be a better term for the article. Resolution can be a little ambiguous as wikipedia states. I don’t think you meant 4k displays are roughly 4000 by 16000 tho, probably a typo… heheheh Cheers!

      • Dave

        Hi Alan, I was curious about this and did some reading on media forums and wikipedia to find out what the common standard was…

        From what I can see you are correct. Moving from 2K to 4K is known commonly as doubling the resolution, both in terms of camera, tv displays, monitors, prints etc. Right or wrong this seems the accepted approach.

        To double the resolution you have to quadruple the number of megapixels which is the total number of pixels in the image (calculated by times the x and y values together).

        I might still be wrong and I’m sure somebody in graphics (I’m a software developer myself) will tell me otherwise. I’m just going on what I’ve seen in forums etc but it’s definately not universally accepted by everyone. Anyway interesting arguments!

  • jimrp

    Sweet. Now we need to have the hardware to use it.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Sorry, but I’d rather have a lower resolution, but much higher FOV than a higher resolution with a ‘crap’ FOV.. FOV is one of the major parts of the immersion, not resolution.

    • Augure

      These microdisplays are not supposed to be used with VR headsets, unless you want to reduce the size of the headset but we haven’t even figured out the lens part. They are made for AR projection, and damn 2k is impressive.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Uhm, these microdisplays are definitely also supposed to be used for VR. Most older VR HMD’s all used microdisplays like these, only lower resolutions ofcourse, also OLED for microdisplays is nothing new. My Vuzix 920VR has microdisplays, my VFX-1 has microdisplays, hell even my crap CyberMaXX2 has microdisplays.. But the price of these microdisplays with the resolution is more interesting, not even a couple of years ago you would need to put down a $1000+ per display for even 1K x 1K, and that’s what back then held back consumergrade HMD’s.

        • Augure

          Well the thing is 1. price as you said 2. miniaturisation. The smaller the display, the closer to the lens it can get , the problem is that there is a physical optical limit as to what lenses can do. That’s why there’s not much point in microdisplays for VR headset, rather the point is a mirror-projected or lighfield projected screens that sits on the side of a glass.

  • Mark G

    Dr Fan is a pumper. They aren’t anywhere near production ready for the announced 2K OLED. It will likely come out in 2018 knowing the way he has misled investors over the years. Then his price target will probably be off and the display will sell for much more.

  • Augure

    There’s no point for VR (as I’ll take a full-fledged 4K smartphone screen over it) unless we figure out the lens part…however for AR lightfield reprojection this is amazing.

  • I am legitimately excited.

  • PacoBell

    Kopin’s “Pantile” optics seems to be identical to Wearality’s stacked Fresnel design. I hope they’ve lawyered up.

  • DoomGuy

    Its very interesting, but i think the field of view is more important than the resolution.