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Google Partnering ‘Deeply’ With OLED Maker on Ultra-High-Resolution VR Display

LOS ANGELES -- Google is working on “a secret project” in virtual reality by partnering “deeply” with “one of the leading OLED manufacturers” to create a VR-capable OLED display “with 10X more pixels than any commercially available VR display today,” said Clay Bavor, vice president-VR, in a Tuesday keynote at the Society for Information Display’s (SID) Display Week conference.

With that prototype display capable of resolutions up to 20 megapixels per eye, “that’s the pixels of two and a half 4K TVs, and we’re really excited about it,” said Bavor. We approached Bavor after the speech to ask if he would identify the OLED manufacturer he mentioned. “Of course not,” he responded. When we persevered, a Google representative physically restrained us from getting closer to Bavor to ask additional questions.

Bavor has seen the display “in the lab,” and it’s “spectacular” for increasing the acuity and the field of view in a VR headset, he told the crowd. “It’s indeed way, way more pixels, and it’s not even what we’re going to need in the final display,” though it’s “a very large step in the right direction,” he said.

The “horrifying” result of such a display is that it requires data rates approaching 100 Gbps, said Bavor. “Not only can you not render that much data, you can’t even transfer it,” he said. “You can’t even move it around the device,” he said. One solution lies in a technique called “foveated rendering,” which uses cameras built into the headset to track one’s eyes, he said. “What we can do is render very high resolution where you’re looking,” and then “drop off at the periphery," he said. “And you can dramatically increase rendering efficiency and dramatically reduce the amount of data that you need to move around.” When ultra-high resolutions and foveated rendering are combined, “it’s one of the ways that we think we’re really going to able to push forward this visual quality, visual fidelity, in the VR experience, and we’re really, really excited about it,” he said.

Displays are one of the infinite number of “fundamentally unsolved problems” of virtual-reality headsets that must be addressed if the technology is “to get better.” To increase acuity or field of view or both in a VR headset, “we need way, way more pixels,” said Bavor. “Today’s best consumer-available VR displays run about 2 megapixels per eye,” he said. That’s enough to render only 20/100 vision through the headset, well below the bar for being declared legally blind in most U.S. states, he said.

Display Week Notebook

AU Optronics CEO Paul Peng used his Tuesday keynote to press his case that LCD will “continue to maintain the leading edge” technically and competitively over OLED in TV display technology. LCD TVs with quantum dots being “more accurate” in color performance than is possible with OLED, he said. LCD also brings “benefits to consumers,” said Peng. On Black Friday in 2006, $999 would fetch consumers a 42-inch 1080p LCD TV with CCFL backlighting, he said. Ten years later, $1,099 was all that was required to buy a 65-inch LCD set with 4K resolution, high dynamic range and sophisticated LED backlighting in a “more stylish appearance,” including a bezel-less, curved form factor, he said. “In the meantime, it would cost more than double the price to purchase a 65-inch OLED TV, but without all the advanced features” of the LCD set, he said.

President Donald Trump’s revised immigration executive order blocking citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from getting new U.S. visas (see 1703060043) hit Display Week organizers close to home when the tech executive who helped put together the show’s first Women in Tech forum was unable to travel to Los Angeles for the conference. The executive, Tara Akhavan, co-founder of the Montreal tech firm IRYStec, holds an Iranian passport and was unable to land a U.S. visa, Sri Peruvemba, SID’s chief marketing officer, told a media breakfast Tuesday. IRYStec supplies perceptual computational display technology solutions for smart devices, virtual reality, head-up display night-time driving and flight simulation. SID wants to “increase diversity at Display Week,” Rashmi Rao, Harman International senior director-advanced engineering, told the conference’s opening session Tuesday, explaining the rationale for the Women in Tech forum. “We want to encourage more women, and we want to recognize the contributions that women have made to the display community,” said Rao, who told the crowd it gives her “great pleasure to say” she’s the second woman to hold the title of technical program chair in the 56 years that SID has been running conferences. The first was Mary Tilton, Rao said, but “nobody could tell me which year she was the program chair for.” Tilton held R&D management posts with several large companies, including General Electric, Hewlett-Packard and Planar Systems, said a 2008 Virent Energy Systems personnel announcement.