Display maker reveals 4K OLED microdisplay – for Valve’s new headset?
Display manufacturer Emagin broke records at Display Week. A detail of the first OLED microdisplay with 4K resolution could hint at Valve’s VR plans.
Display manufacturer Emagin broke two display records at this year’s Display Week 2022: a newly unveiled OLED microdisplay for VR headsets offers a lush 3,600 x 4,000 pixels per eye resolution and smooth 120 hertz refresh rate (for comparison, the premium headset Varjo Aero offers 2,880 x 2,720 pixels at 90 Hz). The high sharpness level at 2,600 pixels per inch (PPI) is especially interesting for premium headsets that are suitable for work.
Emagin’s display breaks resolution records, but the space requirement is higher than usual for micro OLED displays. The 2.1 inches (5.33 cm) correspond to the dimensions that small LC displays usually come with – for example in HTC Vive Flow, which still achieves a slim form factor. The larger display could have a positive effect on the field of view (FOV).
OLED microdisplay with high brightness
OLED technology is known for high contrasts and good color reproduction thanks to excellent black levels. Previous drawbacks in terms of low brightness have apparently been eradicated with the new screen. The brightness of more than 10,000 nits is also a new record for OLED microdisplays.
The brightness value refers to the “Low Persistence Mode”, where the pixels briefly turn off between frames to avoid smearing the VR image. In an interview with VR analyst Brad Lynch, Andrew Sculley, CEO of Emagin, even mentioned a brightness measurement of up to 11,300 nits.
The increased brightness is an important factor for modern pancake lenses, which reduce the space required between the screen and the lens, allowing for more compact glasses. After traveling through the pancake optics, the redirected or folded light beam is significantly less bright than in standard aspherical or Fresnel lenses. Displays with higher output brightness could compensate for this deficit.
Emagin’s 2.1-inch display won “Best New Display Technology” at Display Week.
High resolution for Valve’s VR headset “Deckard”?
However, a detail next to the screen caused even more of a stir than its technical specs. The new screen was mounted on a circuit board called “Steamboat”.
Does this hint at Valve’s rumored “Deckard” VR headset, which could be connected to Valve’s Steam service? This would fit several reports from industry insiders. However, after Valve Index and Half-Life: Alyx, Valve has shown little interest in PC VR.
At the show, Sculley revealed that the screen was developed for a partner who needed the screen for a prototype. Meanwhile, there is also a second partner.
However, the release of a headset with Emagin’s display will still take some time. Sculley told UploadVR that it could appear in a year and a half at the earliest.