IDTechEx Research: Microdisplays enabling the AR-VR smartglasses revolution

By Isaac Oburu

If the buzz at CES is any indication of things to come (and it usually is), 2016 is expected to be the year of virtual reality (VR). Much anticipated VR headset launches, announcement of investment in enabling technologies, and developments of optimized components made virtual reality the words on everyone’s lips at the show. The new IDTechEx Research report “AR & VR Smartglasses and Functional Contact Lenses 2016-2026” discusses the market growth expected for VR headsets and finds it to be shipping in volumes of over 10 million units by 2019.

Microdisplays, initially developed for large screen projectors, found a perfectly matching application in head mounted displays. When Google Glass launched in 2013, it integrated a reflective, near-eye Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) display based on an LCoS chip from Himax Display. Non-emissive systems like this require an external light source with light always incident on every pixel, irrespective of whether said pixel is on or off, which is an undesirable trait for portable applications where battery life is paramount. Emissive types, such as micro-OLED displays, do not have that problem so can be more energy efficient, and they also provide a higher contrast and faster response time. However they are currently limited in brightness. Whereas micro-LED displays, which are also emissive, have been demonstrated to operate efficiently at higher brightness, but are inherently monochrome.

The IDTechEx Research report “AR & VR Smartglasses and Functional Contact Lenses 2016-2026” is focused on how the market is going to evolve over the next decade, based on the exciting R&D efforts of recent years along with the high visibility some projects and collaborations have enjoyed. The amount of interest this sector is experiencing is exciting developers of a range of allied technologies into fast-tracking/focusing their efforts, as well as creating devices and components designed specifically to serve this emerging industry.

The report includes insight into how different entities are addressing various technological challenges, such miniaturization, power schemes and flexibility of components. It also provides a comparison and benchmarking of microdisplay technologies, profiles of the most significant players and ten year market forecasts for both smartglasses and smart contact lenses.

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