Display specialists Kopin in partnership with Chinese company GoerTek have announced a new reference VR headset design that it claims is the smallest of its kind integrating the firm’s ‘Lightning’ OLED micro display panels sporting a substantial 2k x 2k resolution.

One of the key ‘most wanted’ advances desired in today’s retail virtual reality headsets is higher resolution displays. Recently we reported on Samsung’s prototype OLED panels sporting a PPI (pixels per inch) figure of 858, nearly twice that of the current generation HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets. Now, micro display specialist Kopin have unveiled a new reference design headset with displays that top even that.

The adorably named ‘Elf VR’ headset is equipped with two of Kopin’s “Lightning” OLED micro display panels, which each feature a 2048 x 2048 resolution, providing “binocular 4K image resolution at a 120Hz refresh rate” – a figure which is misleading as the horizontal resolution is ‘per eye’ and there cannot resolve the 3840 horizontal pixels required for an equivalent ‘UHD’ image (even ignoring the shortfall in vertical resolution). In case you’re wondering, each diminutive display represents an impressive 2940 pixels per inch – that’s five times the number on existing Samsung panels in the Vive and Rift.

A Kopin Micro Display [Image courtesy Kopin]
Going by images included in our recent report on those prototype Samsung panels, this would substantially reduce screendoor effect, artifacts cause by the visible gap between display elements. What’s more, Elf VR should represent not only a great visual experience for traditional VR experiences, but also provide an impressive bump for 360 and standard movie watching too.

“It is now time for us to move beyond our conventional expectation of what virtual reality can be and strive for more,” explained Kopin founder and CEO John Fan as part of a recent press release. “Great progress has been made this year, although challenges remain. This reference design, created with our partner Goertek, is a significant achievement. It is much lighter and fully 40% smaller than standard solutions, so that it can be worn for long periods without discomfort. At the same time, our OLED microdisplay panel achieves such high resolution and frame rate that it deliver a VR experience that truly approaches reality for markets including gaming, pro applications or film.”

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Kopin Unveils 'Lightning' 2k x 2k 120Hz OLED Microdisplay for Mobile VR

Of course, the other major statistic of interest for VR headsets is the expansiveness of the field of view (FOV) or, how much of your peripheral vision is encompassed by the image. With smaller displays come optical challenges in achieving immersive FOVs. Kopin claim are tackling this with a two-pronged approach. Their reference design includes two “Multi-lens” optical design branches. The first is a unit targeting the aforementioned media / movie watching category which offers a 70 degree FOV (it’s not stated if this is horizontal, vertical or diagonal) – which will present a sharper image with higher pixel density. The second offers a much greater 100 degree FOV, presumably at the sacrifice of optical sharpness.

Of course with smaller integrated panel hardware and these optical systems, the other benefit to Kopin’s approach could be weight advantages. Kopin claim it’s managed to reduce its optical module by 60% to leverage a 50% weight reduction – although as no numbers were provided we’re not sure what this comparison refers to.

As we’ve seen time and again since the start of the most recent VR renaissance, it continues to provide an impressive catalyst to accelerating technological innovation in multiple fields. And with both Samsung and Kopin already at a stage where they can produce next generation VR displays, it hopefully won’t be too long before we begin to see tangible upgrades over existing ‘first gen’ hardware. That ‘soon’ may mean mid 2018, at least according to Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, speaking in an interview recently.

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  • Duane Aakre

    “Recently we reported on Samsung’s prototype OLED panels
    sporting a PPI (pixels per inch) figure of 858, nearly 3.5 times that
    of the current generation HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets.”

    This sentence is very poorly written or just plain wrong, as it indicates a 3.5 increase in pixel density. Actually, it should be a 3.5 increase in total pixels or about a 1.8 increase in pixel density.

    • “plain wrong” as it happens @duaneaakre:disqus – now fixed. Thanks.

  • REP

    Failed.

  • The version with a 70 degree field of view ultimately seems a bit pointless imo. It’s not really great VR once the field of view goes that low, and even at the current 100 degree field of view it’s a fine line. Anyone who thinks that such a low field of view is acceptable for VR–I’m talking about the 70 degree version here–doesn’t really get VR imo. I’d rather take a smaller jump in resolution for now but stay with the 100 degree field of view; and ideally I’d actually like to see that increase too. We’ll get to the even higher resolutions soon enough, and without having to sacrifice the field of view. The 120Hz refresh rate would be cool though, as long as it’s proper 120Hz and not some kind of fakery or reprojection (or whatever it’s called).

    • silvaring

      70 degrees might be fine for all legacy applications and traditional 2D monitor work, you’re probably reading this comment on something that approaches that fov anyway even though you have the comfort of your peripheral vision right now (which honestly speaking can actually be a distraction when it comes to traditional work / gaming.

      • Yeah, that didn’t sell it any better at all. Buying an expensive VR headset just to do stuff you can do on a normal flat screen anyway–and your flat screen will almost certainly still have a higher DPI–sounds like worst possible way to convince people that VR is the future of entertainment, gaming, productivity, etc. I mean, you’re right; playing a legacy 2D/3D game on a virtual monitor in a 70 degree FOV VR headset would be fine, but that’s not what should be getting anyone at all interested in VR excited right about now. Nah, I think we really need to go upwards from the 100-110 degrees we’re at right now, not backwards.

  • Darshan

    I would like to know what price band they are targeting?
    What sort of result their display could produce on non native input (i e if input is FHD or 2K)
    What is their optics distortion level?

    If all answers favorable i would like to buy it as video player for media consumption for VR anything less than 90 degree fov is plain disappointment.

  • Joan Villora Jofré
    • Lucidfeuer

      They won’t wait for the factory to be built before shipping a model, and their partners are pretty legit.

      • Joan Villora Jofré

        I hope so, and yes, they are.

      • Gerald Terveen

        Interesting – so does that mean they will have a product priced outside of consumer range so they can manage the numbers or what are you saying there?

        From my understanding it seems they need the facility to mass produce for the consumer market, but I am not that informed.

        • Lucidfeuer

          I don’t have official informations but my best guess is, they will indeed probably ship a higher-priced prosumer version first there is enough of a market incentive, while the facilities just seem like a chinese manufacture contracting project they plugged themselves to though these are serious rated companies.

          But China goes fast so maybe the operational time of opening for these factories coïncides with their tentative date of release for the headset.

    • They have funding for a new OLED manufacturing plant to handle the increasing demand of VR but OLED displays are still produced right now. 2k, 120Hz, 100deg, 30 to 40% lighter OLED based. Great. Keep at it.

  • Facts

    Sorry but 70° FOV is not virtual reality, this isn’t the 80s try again.

    • Random Man

      if it were the 80s it’d have a 20-30 degree FOV, and they wouldn’t have an alternate 100 degree design.

    • Facts

      Learn how to read first. Then try again.

      • Facts

        I was attacking their 70° headset. Remember the sony 3d 70° fov movie watching headset that came before the oculus, vive and PlayStation vr? Yea that thing was a fail; tho the resolution was stunning! It fail because it simulated watching a movie through a pair of binocular. So yea this 70° headset they spoke of is obsolete in 2017 it will fail, I’ll take less resolution over less FOV any day.

        • This. There’s not point in VR at all if the field of view is so small that you basically just end up looking at a window floating in front of you again. Even 10 degrees isn’t perfect, but it’s enough. Ideally we’d want this number to keep going up, not down.

      • Facts

        “Kopin Unveils ‘Lightning’ 2k x 2k 120Hz OLED Microdisplay for Mobile VR”
        Keyword (VR )

    • Shawn Gatschene

      From the jist of the article I believe the 70 deg FOV variant is specifically for a better viewing experience of 2D media such as film and pictures. 100 deg FOV is still not enough for true vr apps, specially for 2nd Gen.

    • ThreeRing

      The second offers a much greater 100 degree FOV, presumably at the sacrifice of optical sharpness.

  • victor

    100 deg fov is a no go for me.
    FOV way more important than res for immersion. Min FOV should be 150, Most people that try my rift complain on peripheral vision first and res secondary.

    • saintkamus

      speak for yourself only. I would not trade FOV for resolution at this point.
      The resolution is just too shit in VR at the moment. (same goes for optics)

      Yes, more FOV would be welcome, but i wouldn’t trade it for resolution until it can at least be done at the equivalent PPD of a 24″ 1080p monitor (at an arm’s length distance)

      • victor

        Yes speaking for myself (and my friends) just as you speaking for yourself!
        Let’s face it we need BOTH for VR to catch on to mass market

      • I have to agree with you resolution makes so many things in VR impossible while FOV doesn’t feel right but does not mean you can’r fully experience a VR application. I can’t read text in VR due to resolution regardless of my FOV. The FOV can be 360 and still you will not be able to read text.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        No it isn’t, the resolution could be a big higher, but FOV is more important..

        • victor

          ahhh finally someone who agrees with me with FOV more important than res.

      • Dave

        Yes I think you are right. Resolution is more important than FOV. However thats only if FOV isn’t sacrificed. There is no way I would even consider buying a HMD with inferior FOV to my Oculus, that would be rediculous. For for me the FOV AND the resolution has to be increased regardless otherwise we have no progress.

    • xWeez

      No. Resolution is way more important than FOV at this point. FOV is passable in current HMD’s, while resolution is in desperate need of increase in both of the top selling HMD’s.

      • victor

        In my context of immersion, reading text has nothing to do with it.
        Even if I’m the only person in the world I still feel fov is most important first while res is second. Just expressing my personal opinion here that’s all.
        Edit :sorry this reply was meant for opman

      • rob

        yes, I just tried out the new Samsung Gear VR2 running on new Galaxy S8 smartphone, with motion control (Samsung) chair.

        I tried out a “space fighter” sim and was blown away by the quality of the display (2960 x 1440 / 2 – 570 ppi ) compared to 446ppi Vive / 456ppi Rift.

        That relatively small increase in resolution and pixel was very noticeable, as well as being horrendously shaken about by the motion chair:?!?

        I’ve spent a lot of time using Vive as well as experiencing Rift, PSVR, Daydream,etc. I find the FOV most important; because display quality in the PC HMD can be substantially improved with judicious supersampling obviously horrendous hardware cost

        Whereas FOV cannot be much increased in an existing HMD, except for marginal gain using thin aftermarket face cushion on Vive to bring the face further forward, although you start to notice the black plastic of the side of screen in your peripheral vision which is the limiting factor.

        Stock Vive is considered 110 x 113 and Rift is 94 x 93 so I guess with 4mm aftermarket face cushion on Vive increased the FOV maybe 5-10%? Very noticeable especially putting OE face cushion back on, or trying another unmodified Vive.

        Cannot wait to see second generation PC VR HMD with the new tech display panels, its going to be fantastic to see increases in both FOV and panel performance:)

      • Andrew Jakobs

        No, FOV is more important than resolution. To me a small increase in resolution for the current headsets (like 2560×1440 per eye) is more than enough, it’s the FOV that needs to be much bigger for real immersion.

        • lainIwakura

          i don’t agree, if you have a bad resolution it will always look unreal/pixelated
          but with a bad fov, it’s like having motorcycle headset on head so it don’t break reality

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Except I already think the current resolution isn’t a problem, and I don’t like having a motorcycle headset on my head because of the narrowed FOV.

      • Dave

        One thing is for sure. Resolution will get a ton better. Hard to say how much though. So it boils down to where are you going to ‘spend’ that resolution, in pixel density or in FOV. I can’t see 2nd generation PSVR, Rift or Vive products having inferior FOV or pixel density so whoever utilises there resolution best could be on to a winner.
        Wouldn’t it be interesting if Oculus and HTC take different approaches and one goes with higher FOV and the other higher pixel density…

    • Mo Last

      Agreed bro

  • Brent

    omggg yesss

  • Lucidfeuer

    Not well conceived and pointless.
    They reduced the footprint by using micro-displays of which the main point is also increasing FOV, yet they went for a sub-sub-standard FOV (because I consider 100°, which is not even half of your real eyesight, to already be sub-standard) and they didn’t even go for glasses-like pad/branches let alone a head-band, and finally this thick face pad adds to the bulk and distance of the lenses to your eyes.

    BUT, the lenses/micro-display “goggles” pieces are very interesting as they indeed greatly reduce the footprint of VR headsets.

  • VRdeluxe

    I never intended to buy a product from HTC and certainly not from Facebook. They were just first to market. If Kopin are planing to launch this two years from now when the CV2 models are available they might as well give up

    The first person to offer a true UHD headset that actually works will win

  • Andrew Jakobs

    I don’t have a problem even with the SDE on current headsets, it’s the FOV which I have a problem with. So it’s really a no go with such a low FOV..

  • CazCore

    pixel density is far more important than FOV.
    far far FAR more important.