Skip to main content

This microLED 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 microLEDs could challenges the way VR headsets are built in the future — and greatly expand their visuals.

Stacked microLEDs 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 microLED 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.

MicroLED 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.

Alan Truly
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
I tried an insane one-handed keyboard, and I actually liked it
The TapStrap 2 is a great solution for my Microsoft Surface Book in tablet mode.

I love to experiment with new ways to interact with computers, so when I came across a remarkable keyboard simulator that straps on one hand, I had to give it a try. I was skeptical that it would be useful but found out I actually liked it.

It works reliably in AR and VR without a need to see the keyboard and can be used with nearly any device.

Read more
Apple’s secret AR glasses may have this genius feature for glasses users
Apple iGlasses

Apple’s Vision Pro headset has got the entire tech world talking, but it’s still unclear exactly how it will work with the prescription lenses used by glasses wearers around the world. Get it right and it could be a beautifully seamless experience -- get it wrong and Apple risks alienating potentially millions of users. It’s a crucial obstacle to overcome.

Apple has said it will let you add special prescription lenses to the Vision Pro, but pricing is uncertain, and they could cost as much as $600 a pop according to journalist Mark Gurman. Now, though, a fresh patent for Apple’s upcoming augmented reality (AR) glasses shows that there could be a much better -- and cheaper -- way to do it.

Read more
The Vision Pro SDK has arrived. Here’s what it’s revealed so far
The UI of Apple's Vision Pro headset.

We've already learned quite a bit about the Vision Pro since Apple's WWDC event, but many details are still unknown.

Now that the software developers kit (SDK) is available, coders are digging in and uncovering more about Apple's first mixed-reality headset. Here are some of the best finds so far.
Limited VR range

Read more