Rick Wietfeldt, Chairman of the MIPI Alliance Technical Steering Group and Senior Director, Technology at Qualcomm

Virtual Reality (VR) is a digital immersion technology. Instead of “watching a movie,” you are “participating in the movie,” and user movements and actions are reflected into the movie storyline.

As the technology advancing VR continues to expand, it will be important that future VR displays require higher resolution/frame rate displays to present a closer perspective of reality and avoid the associated nausea some VR users experience today.

The provision of both video and audio will require VR displays to be outfitted with speakers and/or headphones. What’s more, these future devices will require sensors that can monitor users’ movements, feeding that data through an interface to the head-mounted display (HMD) CPU/GPU for real-time storyline integration. For example, if action within a VR situation presents you on a bridge and you jump off, the storyline changes to show you falling towards the water. If you start flapping your arms, the storyline might change so that you begin to fly as you approach the water.

VR will require one or more positioning systems that track the wearer’s head position, angle, and motion, so the picture, or “symbology,” displayed is consistent with the wearer’s motion. This may also include eye trackers to measure the point of gaze and hand trackers to allow interaction with the storyline or content. VR systems will also require sensors/cameras that can see the real world so that users avoid bumping into walls or other people.

While individual interfaces exist for various elements being used in VR today, it’s clear that updates and new interfaces may be required to streamline the merging of display, camera, sensor, touch, haptic, and audio inputs, ultimately consolidating VR applications of the future.


Amal Ghosh, President, Society for Information Display (SID), Senior Vice President, eMagin Corporation

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, 22,000 square feet was dedicated to gaming and VR—an increase of 68 percent compared to 2015. In addition, the show featured, for the first time, 5,000 square feet of space dedicated to augmented reality (AR) offerings. While VR is immersive, shutting out one’s surroundings, AR provides a virtual overlay to what the viewer is seeing in the real world.

Some pundits view VR as the hare in this space, casting AR as the tortoise that will ultimately win the race. They point to a wave of emerging AR startups that tout enterprise applications, broadening the opportunities for business growth. To become more widely adopted, AR displays must be small, comfortable, and easy to use, while offering superior graphics and an authentic visual experience.

It is important to note that VR typically requires fully occluded headsets with high-image quality, while AR headsets are see-through, meant primarily for data, and require displays with different performances. Displays for VR applications are typically larger, with very high resolution, color gamut, contrast, and low to moderate brightness. On the other hand, displays for AR applications are smaller and require very high brightness, but their color gamut and contrast requirements are moderate. In this sense, one can conclude that the holy grail of microdisplays is one that will satisfy both the VR and AR requirements. 

To this end, the display is focusing on some key areas. One is continuing to enable a reduced form factor in the optical combiner technology (which is what enables the virtual image overlay), while maintaining an image’s high quality. Another aspect is image brightness—important in AR since the image is seen on top of the real world using see-through optics. Image quality is dictated by the amount of ambient light in the wearer’s environment so contrast is important. The display must also enable the wearer to experience excellent image tracking with very low latency as he or she moves about. Microdisplay makers are working closely with customers and partners throughout the industry ecosystem to achieve these goals.