Hands-On With eMagin’s Virtual Reality Headset And Interview With VP Dan Cui
It’s Display Week, a once a year event in the Bay Area where organizations and researchers showcase cutting-edge developments in display technology. The event is where “the world got its first look at technologies that have shaped the display industry into what it is today; that is, liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, plasma display panel (PDP) technology, organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology, and high definition TV, just to name a few”. Source
The world of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) has shifted from a niche market geared towards the military, gamers, and enthusiasts to a multi billion dollar industry that is on the verge of becoming a mainstream household product. Companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are fully backing initiatives to get these types of devices to consumer markets. Volanti Displays is working closely with several innovative tech consulting firms to implement features such as telepresence and stay at the forefront of VR/AR.
There are currently some limitations such as resolution, field of view (FOV), positional tracking, and form factor that need to be improved in order for VR to gain widespread adoption. OLED microdisplay manufacturer eMagin is looking at overcoming some of these challenges with their latest prototype that includes 2K resolution per eye along with a significantly smaller form factor. The device also features easily accessible adjustments for Interpupillary distance and Diopter settings that allow the user to fine tune the device to provide better focus and comfort.
Volanti Displays had a chance to sit down with VP of eMagin, Dan Cui to answer questions and demo the latest prototype of their VR head mounted display (HMD).
Volanti Displays: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your extensive background in AR/VR?
Dan Cui: My career spans over 30 years as a sales, marketing and business development professional focused on introducing leading edge technology and products into new markets on a global basis. I have held senior positions in consumer electronics, e-commerce, semi-conductor, system, and electronic design automation (EDA) industries.
Prior to joining eMagin, I held the position of Vice President Sales and Business Development for Vuzix Corp. I was responsible for creating the Enterprise strategy that help expand the Smart Glasses adoption within the enterprise sector. My work help Vuzix take a key leadership position in the market which lead to Intel’s investment and subsequent uplift of the company to NASDAQ. Prior to Vuzix, I held the position of Sr. Vice President of Sale & Marketing at Myvu/ViewLink Corporation, one of the early HMD/Smart Glasses market leaders. Viewlink (subsidiary of Foxconn) was the 1st to convince and produce a wearable Android Smart Glass device. It was shown publically at CES 2012. Google eventually bought all the Myvu/Viewlink patents for the Glass project.
Volanti Displays: The eMagin prototype looks incredible at 2k per eye. Can you provide some additional specs for the current model we tested?
Dan Cui: The 2K prototype was built to primarily highlight the functionality of the eMagin OLED display technology. The hardware for the prototype is still going through revisions so specs are somewhat fluid at this point. What you viewed today was only running at 60hz. We’ll soon increase that to 85hz and we believe we’ll be able to reach 120hz. The FOV is 80 degrees horizontal and vertical giving over 110 degrees on the diagonal.
Volanti Displays: How do you see the eMagin headset differentiating itself from the competition? What is your vision for the first consumer release?
Dan Cui: The development of this prototype was to create a platform that showed off our display technology and the “awesomeness” high resolution displays bring to the VR market. We use this platform to engage potential partners. At this point in time, we are willing to fully develop the iHMD in cooperation with one of our partners but we haven’t put plans in place to market it on our own.
Volanti Displays: Your team shifted away from the large head mounted display seen in other upcoming VR products and managed to create an amazingly small, flip-up pair of goggles. How do you see the VR/AR headset evolving in the coming years?
Dan Cui: This is a challenging area for any headset company. Optical systems are the determining factor for the size of any headset. The micro-display (or other) size and lens are the “secret sauce” that allows us to get to a smaller form factor. Work in these areas continue, and you should stay tuned for new developments from us!
Volanti Displays: What are the current challenges with VR and achieving true immersion/presence?
Dan Cui: The form, fit and feel are key elements for any wearable device. What we’ve tried to show with the iHMD is that we are capable of delivering an unparalleled VR experience with a relatively small form factor. Display size and optical components are the driving factor here and we continue to work on improving the current design.
The other key area is the computational horsepower needed to run high resolution content and drive the headset. While computing/graphic systems are available, they are not inexpensive. We anticipate that the costs of some of these more advanced platforms will come down within the next 18 months making the technology more attractive to the average user.
Volanti Displays: Where do you see the future of AR/VR going? What types of mainstream consumer/business applications can we expect to see in the coming years?
Dan Cui: AR is already moving rapidly throughout the enterprise space. Recent announcements by companies like DHL show 25% improvement in productivity when incorporating AR into their overall process. VR also has a home in the enterprise space. The automotive companies especially have lead the way in using VR in the design process and are now moving it (and AR) into the sales/marketing process to enhance the experience of automotive buyers. Medical and remote telepresence are other key areas of adoption in the AR/VR space. Next week’s AWE2015 will showcase a number of new applications in both the consumer and enterprise space.
For more information on their HMD, check out the eMagin website or follow Dan Cui on Twitter for regular updates. To learn more about Volanti Displays and our innovative custom displays, feel free to contact us to set up some time to discuss your ideas.
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