Kopin shows off flagship OLED VR display and pancake optics, the best yet

Kopin is an electronics manufacturer best known for its microdisplays. In recent years, the company has been eyeing the emerging XR industry as a viable market for their wares. To that end, the company has been steadily making VR displays and optics that it hopes headset makers will want to get their hands on.

At AWE 2022 last month, the company showcased its latest work on that front with a new plastic pancake optic and flagship VR display.

Kopin’s P95 pancake optic has just 17mm of screen-to-lens separation, along with a 95° field of view. In addition, it distinguishes itself as an all-plastic optic, making it cheaper, lighter, more durable and more flexible than comparable glass optics. The company says its secret sauce is capable of making plastic pancake optics that perform just as well optically as their glass counterparts.

Photo by Road to VR

At AWE, the Kopin P95 optic allowed me to peak. Inside, I saw a sharp image with seemingly pretty good edge-to-edge clarity. It’s difficult to make a firm assessment of how it compares to today’s headsets as it is my understanding that the test pattern shown had no geometric or color corrections, nor was it calibrated for the numbers shown.

You will notice that the P95 is a non-Fresnel optic that: should meaning it won’t suffer from the kind of ‘god-rays’ and glare that almost every contemporary VR headset exhibits. Admittedly, without seeing dynamic content, it’s hard to know if the multi-element pancake optic introduces its own visual artifacts.

While the test pattern was not calibrated, it does reveal the retina resolution of the underlying screen – Kopin’s flagship ‘Lightning’ display for VR devices.

Photo by Road to VR

This little beauty is a 1.3-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2,560 × 2,560 to 120 Hz. Kopin says the screen has 10-bit color, which is HDR-capable.

Photo by Road to VR

Combined, the P95 pancake optic and Lightning display appear to form a viable, retina-resolution, compact display architecture for VR headsets. But it’s not necessarily a shoe-in.

First, the 95° field of view barely meets par. Ostensibly, Kopin will have to grow its 1.3-inch backlight screen if it wants to meet or exceed what’s offered in today’s VR headsets.

Furthermore, the company was unwilling to disclose any information about screen brightness or pancake lens efficiency – both key factors for use in VR headsets.

Because pancake lenses use polarized light and that light bounces around a few times, they always become less efficient – meaning there’s more brightness on the input to get the same level of brightness. That typically means more heat and more power consumption, adding to the trade-offs needed to build a headset with this display architecture.

Kopin has been promoting its displays and optics as a solution for VR headsets for several years now, but they don’t seem to have found traction in the consumer and corporate space yet. It’s not entirely clear what’s stopping the company from breaking into the VR space, but it probably comes down to the price or the performance of the offering.

That said, Kopin has been steadily moving towards the form factor, resolution and field of view the VR industry had hoped for, so perhaps the P95 optic and latest Lightning display will be the point where the company starts to turn heads. in the VR room.

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