Kopin Entering OLED Microdisplay Market

Kopin Making OLED Microdisplays

Kopin announced today that they are getting into the OLED Microdisplay business. This is particularly notable because Kopin has been a long time (since 1999) manufacture of transmissive LCD microdisplays used in camera viewfinders and near eye display devices. They also bought Forth Dimension Displays back in 2011, a maker of high resolution ferroelectric reflective LCOS used in higher end near eye products.

OLED Microdisplays Trending in AR/VR Market

With the rare exception of the large and bulky Meta 2, microdisplays, (LCOS, DLP, OLED, and transmissive LCD), dominate the AR/MR see-through market. They also are a significant factor in VR and other non-see-through near eye displays

Kopins entry seems to be part of what may be a trend toward OLED Microdisplays used in near eye products. ODG’s next generation “Horizon” AR glasses is switching from LCOS (used in the current R7) to OLED microdisplays. Epson which was a direct competitor to Kopin in transmissive LCD, switched to OLED microdisplays in their new Moverio BT-300 AR glasses announced back in February.

OLED Microdisplays Could Make VR and Non-See-Through Headsets Smaller/Lighter

Today most of the VR headsets are following Oculus’s use of large flat panels with simple optics. This leads to large bulky headsets, but the cost of OLED and LCD flat panels is so low compared to other microdisplays with their optics that they win out. OLED microdisplays have been far too expensive to compete on price with the larger flat panels, but this could change as there are more entrants into the OLED microdisplay market.

OLEDs Don’t Work With Waveguides As Used By Hololens and Magic Leap

It should be noted that the broad spectrum and diffuse light emitted by OLED is generally incompatible with the flat waveguide optics such as used by Hololens and is expected from Magic Leap (ML). So don’t expect to see these being used by Hololens and ML anytime soon unless they radically redesign their optics. Illuminated microdisplays like DLP and LCOS can be illuminated by narrower spectrum light sources such as LED and even lasers and the light can be highly collimated by the illumination optics.

Transmissive LCD Microdisplays Can’t Compete As Resolution Increases

If anything, this announcement from Kopin is the last nail in the coffin of the transmissive LCD microdisplay in the future. OLED Microdisplays have the advantages over transmissive Micro-LCD in the ability to go to higher resolution and smaller pixels to keep the overall display size down for a given resolution when compared to transmissive LCD. OLEDs consume less power for the same brightness than transmissive LCD. OLED also have much better contrast. As resolution increases transmissive LCDs cannot compete.

OLEDs Microdisplays More Of A Mixed Set of Pros and Cons Compared to LCOS and DLP.

There is a mix of pro’s and con’s when comparing OLED microdisplays with LCOS and DLP. The Pro’s for OLED over LCOS and DLP include:

  1. Significantly simpler optical path (illumination path not in the way). Enables optical solutions not possible with reflective microdisplays
  2. Lower power for a given brightness
  3. Separate RGB subpixels so there is no field sequential color breakup
  4. Higher contrast.

The advantages for LCOS and DLP reflective technologies over OLED microdisplays include:

  1. Smaller pixel equals a smaller display for a given resoluion. DLP and LCOS pixels are typically from 2 to 10 times smaller in area per pixel.
  2. Ability to use narrow band light sources which enable the use of waveguides (flat optical combiners).
  3. Higher brightness
  4. Longer lifetime
  5. Lower cost even including the extra optics and illumination

Up until recently, the cost of OLED microdisplays were so high that only defense contractors and other applications that could afford the high cost could consider them. But that seems to be changing. Also historically the brightness and lifetimes of OLED microdisplays were limited. But companies are making progress.

OLED Microdisplay Competition

Kopin is long from being the first and certainly is not the biggest entry in the OLED microdisplay market. But Kopin does have a history of selling volume into the microdisplay market. The list of known competitors includes:

  1. Sony appears to be the biggest player. They have been building OLED microdisplays for many years for use in camera viewfinders. They are starting to bring higher resolution products to the market and bring the costs down.
  2. eMagin is a 23-year-old “startup”. They have a lot of base technology and are a “pure play” stock wise. But they have failed to break through and are in danger of being outrun by big companies
  3. MicoOLED – Small France startup – not sure where they really stand.
  4. Samsung – nothing announced but they have all the technology necessary to make them. Update: Ron Mertens of OLED-Info.com informed me that I was rumored that the second generation of Google Glass was considering a Samsung OLED microdisplay and that Samsung had presented a paper going back to 2011.
  5.  LG – nothing announced but they have all the technology necessary to make them.

I included Samsung and LG above not because I have seen or heard of them working on them, but I would be amazed if they didn’t at least have a significant R&D effort given their sets of expertise and their extreme interest in this market.

For More Information:

For more complete information on the OLED microdisplay market, you might want go to OLED-info that has been following both large flat panel and small OLED microdisplay devices for many years. They also have two reports available, OLED Microdisplays Market Report and OLED for VR and AR Market Report.

For those who want to know more about Kopin’s manufacturing plan, Chris Chinnock of Insight Media has an interesting article outlining Kopin’s fabless development strategy.

8 comments

  1. frankenberry says:

    Karl ,

    eMagin has achieved “high brightness ” – up to 4,500 nits .

    http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160602005730/en/eMagin-Announces-Public-Demonstration-Ultra-High-Brightness-Direct

    Also eMagin has been working diligently to lower costs for the consumer market . Their 3Q 10Q specifically references the “consumer” with regard to their 2K x 2K display being released Q1 2017 :

    “Our product development efforts on the 2K x 2K full color RGB microdisplay project that was initiated in the fourth quarter of 2015 continued in the current quarter. This will be our largest microdisplay design and expands our product offerings for the consumer and commercial marketplaces. This project is on track to produce engineering samples for select customers beginning in the fourth quarter including the customer with whom we entered into the license agreement in December 2015. Associated products are expected to be available for customers during the first quarter of 2017.
    

  2. frankenberry says:

    Is not surprising Kopin is choosing to enter the OLED market . You may not know that Kopin was select to provide AMLCD displays for the F-35 HMD .

    http://www.kopin.com/investors/news-events/press-releases/Press-Release-Details/2015/Kopin-Secures-Follow-On-Orders-for-Joint-Strike-Fighter/default.aspx

    However, the green glow problem associated with their displays is causing major embarrassment & delays for the program .

    F-35’s $400K Helmet Still Blinds Pilots on Night Flights

    http://www.dodbuzz.com/2016/12/21/f-35-helmet-blinds-pilots-night-flights/

  3. Paul says:

    You mentioned:
    “OLED Microdisplays have the advantages over transmissive Micro-LCD in the ability to go to higher resolution and smaller pixels to keep the overall display size down for a given resolution.”

    “DLP and LCOS pixels are typically from 2 to 10 times smaller in area per pixel.”

    Seems to be conflicting statements? What am I missing?

    • KarlG says:

      Right now Micro OLEDs pixels can be smaller than Micro-LCD (small transmissive microdisplays) and bigger than LCOS DLP (reflective microdisplays).

      The question right now is whether they can eventually be as small or smaller than LCOS and DLP pixels.

  4. frankenberry says:

    Karl ,

    A new ODG video is out .

    @ 2:20 the ODG rep states the the R-9 /Project Horizon has 2 1080p displays per eye .

    That would be a total resolution of 4K

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVhF3ai44Xo

    • KarlG says:

      Thanks I have already seen that video today. It does clear up a few things, but note the video is by an independent writer although the video content is from ODG. I’m in the process of deciphering the part of the video with the balls and cars. The part that interests me is how they know the box on the left is clear and thus you can see through it (I have not had a chance to go through it frame by frame).

      The R-9 (formerly known as Horizon) uses I believe one 1080p display PER eye (via written sources). I also heard the ODG representative in the video say “2 1080p displays per eye” but I think he misspoke which is easy to do when there are two displays and two eyes. Trying to get two 1080p displays optically combined into a single eye’s image would be large and impractical.

      I will print a retraction if I am wrong, but at least in this case, I don’t think I will have to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *