Skip to main content

This micro-LED advancement is exactly what AR and VR needs

Recent advances in microLED technology could significantly improve AR glasses and VR headsets in the future, according to some new research from MIT.

The report claims that vertical stacking could allow for microscopic pixels that provide full color in just 4 microns.

AR Glasses appear over an enlarged view of a stacked microLED display.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Head-mounted displays have, so far, relied on the same type of screens found in smartphones, tablets, and laptops. But these stacked micro-LEDs could challenges the way VR headsets are built in the future — and greatly expand their visuals.

Stacked micro-LEDs can increase resolution compared to the current method of placing red, green, and blue sub-pixels side by side to create each full-color pixel.

The resulting micro-LED display could theoretically have a resolution of 5,000 pixels per inch (PPI). That’s about 10 times the pixel density of your smartphone. While this resolution would serve no purpose on a screen held at arm’s length, it should greatly improve the quality of displays that are about an inch from your eye. VR displays can suffer from the screen door effect where the pixel grid pattern is apparent.

Micro-LED displays also enjoy higher efficiency and improved contrast compared to LCD panels that require backlighting. Even mini-LED backlighting can’t compare since the light source is about one hundred times larger. That’s why you can sometimes see blooming around high-contrast areas in a mini-LED display.

Alan Truly smiles in this closeup, while wearing the Varjo Aero VR headset.
Photo by Tracey Truly

The only competing technology that might be able to match the contrast and density is full-color microLED; however, OLED degrades much more rapidly over time.

MIT researchers are making good progress on vertically stacked microLED displays, having demonstrated a working stacked pixel. They’ve also designed a manufacturing process that reduces waste despite the challenges of working at such a small scale. The next hurdle is to develop a system that can individually control a vast array of these full-color microLEDs.

The transition from the lab to manufacturing is almost impossible to predict, but this is undoubtedly good news for the future of AR glasses and VR headsets.

Editors' Recommendations

Alan Truly
Computing Writer
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
Here’s when Apple’s AR glasses could finally go on sale
Apple iGlasses

Right now, almost all the chatter around Apple’s secret projects is focused on the company’s Reality Pro mixed-reality headset. But now one well-known analyst has issued a new report shining a light on Apple’s upcoming augmented reality (AR) glasses -- and set out a projected release date for the hush-hush device.

The news comes from Apple guru Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a solid track record when it comes to leaks and predictions surrounding the Cupertino giant. According to Kuo, Apple’s AR glasses could launch in 2026 or 2027 at the earliest.

Read more
Leak reveals how Apple VR headset’s hand tracking may work
A rendering of an Apple mixed-reality headset (Reality Pro) in a gold color seen from the front.

Apple’s secret mixed-reality headset -- dubbed Reality Pro -- is due to launch imminently, but the way you’ll use the device is something of a mystery. Sure, rumors have pointed to some form of gesture control, but that’s a pretty vague description. Fortunately, we might now have a better idea of how it will work.

That’s because Apple has just been granted a patent outlining how you might be able to use a special ring to control objects while using the Reality Pro headset. The idea is that, with this ring on your finger, you’ll be able to perform various gestures that will let you open apps, scroll webpages, and more.

Read more
Apple’s Reality Pro headset is the VR industry’s ‘last hope’
A rendering of an Apple mixed-reality headset (Reality Pro) in a gray color seen from the front.

Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset hasn’t even launched, yet it’s already being touted as the “last hope” for the virtual reality (VR) headset industry. It shows what a dire situation the market is in, at least according to some estimates.

The grim appraisal comes from respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a post on Medium, Kuo explained that other headset makers have cut their production plans and are shipping far fewer units than previously expected. The malaise affects augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) headsets as well as their VR counterparts, says Kuo.

Read more