Samsung is developing bright MicroLED on Silicon displays for AR headsets


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OLED displays have been used in VR headsets for years now due to their fast response times and deep blacks. The Oculus Rift CV1 used Samsung-made OLED displays, as did some of the later models, Samsung’s own Gear VR used OLED (part of the Galaxy phone that powered those headsets) as well as the dedicated Odyssey VR headsets.

However, the leader of the Samsung Display group, Kim Min-woo, said that the company is developing next gen tech for AR displays that will be based on MicroLED, reports The Elec. Specifically, the technology is called MicroLED on Silicon (shortened to “LEDoS”). Current displays are typically made on a glass substrate rather than silicon.

The difference between AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) is that AR needs brighter displays because they are competing with ambient lighting – it integrates virtual objects into the real world and to do it well, it needs to match the brightness of the light around the user. VR displays close you off from the world, so lower brightness can do the job.

The long-term goal for Samsung is to develop LEDoS displays with 6,600 pixels per inch (PPI). Kim says that the minimum for AR displays is 5,000ppi and the distance between pixels must be 5 micrometers or smaller. The red, green and blue sub-pixels should be 3 micrometers or smaller.

For comparison, the original Odyssey VR headset had 615ppi displays and Samsung developed technology to fight the screen door effect and advertised a “perceived” pixel density of 1,233ppi (even though the resolution of the display remained the same). This was years ago, but it goes to show that technology needs to progress by leaps and bounds for a true to life image.

Kim Min-woo speaking at the MicroLED Display Workshop industry event in Seoul
Kim Min-woo speaking at the MicroLED Display Workshop industry event in Seoul

In addition to LEDoS, Samsung Display is also developing OLED on Silicon (OLEDoS) panels, according to Kim. MicroLEDs should be brighter and therefor better suited for AR applications, though.

Meta is working on prototype headsets and is trying to push the brightness as high as 10,000 nits as that is what is needed to render realistic outdoor scenes. That is 5 to 10 times brighter than even the best smartphone displays on the market. The latest Meta Quest Pro uses LCDs with local dimming (500 LEDs for each backlight), again in order to achieve higher brightness.

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