CES Features the Latest Advances in VR and AR Headsets

During CES we saw a number of VR and AR headsets that illustrate the emerging trends and most recent developments in this space. LetinAR showcased its PinMR optical solution with glasses that leverage 11 pinhole micromirrors per eye in order to deliver a clear and bright image. Panasonic demonstrated a prototype of its new VR headset with micro OLED 2,048 x 2,048 resolution, HDR and spatial audio. Human Capable presented its lightweight and affordable glasses expected to ship Q2 this year, while Pimax showed an updated tethered HMD with native 4K per eye display. And Nreal showed significant improvement to the brightness of its AR display.

LetinAR has made considerable advances in both its technology and business since we first visited with them at the 2019 show. Inspired by the pinhole effect, LetinAR uses tiny pinhole micromirrors to guide the light from a microdisplay into the eye (e.g., their patented PinMR technology). Last year the company showed monocular glasses. This year their binocular glasses use 11 pinhole micromirrors per eye to deliver a clear bright image over a 68-degree horizontal and 45-degree vertical FOV.

LetinAR also showed prototype goggles with 248 pinhole micromirrors per eye serving an image from a full HD OLED display. LetinAR expects the developer kit to be available in Q1 2020. The company has grown from 9 people to 25 people; 80 percent of whom are researchers from Samsung, LG and other labs. Their goal for 2020 is to stabilize mass production of the plastic lenses. 

LetinAR matters because the company is exploring an optical approach based on vision perimeters unexplored by others.

As has been widely reported, Panasonic showed off a new VR headset with micro OLED 2.048 x 2,048 per eye resolution, HDR, 100-degree horizontal FOV and 3 DOF. Unlike the current standard “box on face” design, the cylindrical eyepiece with isolating light shield provides a lighter weight, high quality viewing experience. Panasonic has also incorporated Technic’s drivers into the audio system for high quality spatial audio.

Panasonic matters because its alternative form factor could expand the market for VR headsets if it resonates with consumers.

Human Capable demonstrated its Norm glasses, a new entry into the growing collection of AR glasses that are being developed to do a few things well at a reasonable consumer price point. They project a color image with a narrow 20-degree FOV onto the right lens. With built-in speakers, microphones and battery, they weigh 1.2 ounces and look like sunglasses. The glasses will be available in Q2 2020 for $449, or on Indiegogo for $349. 

Human Capable’s Norm glasses matter because, if a killer app for the family of limited-feature low-price AR glasses hits the mass market, they will help drive the cultural transition from phone-based AR.

Pimax returned to CES with its $1,299 high-end tethered HMD that touts a native 4K per eye display, 170-degree horizontal FOV, approximately 115-degree vertical FOV and an easily adjustable IPD (read the ETCentric post). Although it is larger and heavier than most other HMDs, it was very comfortable during my 5-minute test of a flight simulator. 

Pimax matters because industrial immersive experiences with clear ROI will drive HMD developments that will work their way into consumer products.

Nreal has improved the brightness of its AR display since CES 2019. I estimate that the 1080p per eye display is able to block up to 90 percent of the outside light, making it possible to clearly see virtual images overlaying the real world. The glasses deliver a 52-degree FOV experience with 6 DOF tracking. They are tethered via a wire to a phone or other CPU device. Nreal plans to ship the glasses in Q2 2020 with an MSRP of $499 for the glasses alone and $1,199 with the developer kit.

Nreal matters because developers who take advantage of the features of fuller-function tethered HMDs are building out the library and market research data for when an untethered version hits the consumer market at a reasonable price point.