Kopin Introduces Flagship OLED VR Display and Pancake Optics, Its Best Yet

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Kopin is an electronics manufacturer best known for its micro-displays. In recent years, the company has viewed the emerging XR industry as a viable market for its products. To that end, the company has been working tirelessly to create VR displays and optics that it hopes headset makers will want to grab.

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

Kopin’s P95 pancake optics have a screen-to-lens distance of just 17mm, as well as a 95° field of view. Additionally, it differentiates 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 being able to make plastic pancake optics as optically as good as their glass counterparts.

Photo by Road to VR

At AWE I was able to achieve Kopin P95 optics. Indoors, I saw a sharp image with seemingly quite good edge-to-edge clarity. It is difficult to formulate a firm assessment of how it compares to contemporary helmets, as it is my understanding that the test pattern shown had no geometric or color corrections, nor was it calibrated for the figures shown.

You will notice that the P95 is a non Fresnel optic which should That means it won’t suffer from the kind of “god rays” and glare that almost all contemporary VR headsets exhibit. Admittedly, without seeing dynamic content, it’s hard to know whether or not multi-element pancake optics introduce any of their own visual artifacts.

Even though the test pattern has not been calibrated, it reveals the retina resolution of the underlying display, Kopin’s flagship “Lightning” display for VR devices.

Photo by Road to VR

This little beauty is a 1.3″ OLED display with a resolution of 2560×2560 running up to 120Hz. Kopin says the display has 10-bit color, which makes it viable for HDR.

Photo by Road to VR

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

For one thing, the 95° field of view barely reaches normal. Apparently, Kopin will have to expand his lighting screen by 1.3″ if he wants to meet or exceed what is offered in today’s VR headsets.

Additionally, the company wasn’t ready to divulge information on screen brightness or pancake lens efficiency, both of which are key factors for use in VR headsets.

Because pancake lenses use polarized light and bouncing that light multiple times, they always end up being less efficient, which means more brightness on the input to get the same level of brightness on the output. This usually means more heat and more power consumption, which adds to the trade-offs that would be required if building a headset with this display architecture.

Kopin has been touting its displays and optics as a solution for VR headsets for several years at this point, but at least in the consumer and enterprise space, they don’t seem to have found traction yet. What’s stopping the company from entering the VR space isn’t entirely clear, but it likely comes down to the price or performance of the offerings.

That said, Kopin has gradually moved towards the form factor, resolution and field of view that the VR industry has been hoping for, so perhaps the P95 optics and latest Lightning display will be the point at which the company will start turning heads in the VR space.


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