High Resolution Displays Critical for Immersive Experience and Future Growth of VR HMDs

Two-thirds of VR HMDs are expected to support 4K resolution in 2022
14 Aug 2017

Growing adoption of virtual reality (VR) devices worldwide is driving the demand for significantly higher quality displays, with almost two-thirds (66%) of VR HMDs expected to support 4K (Ultra HD) resolution in 2022, according to recent forecasts from ABI Research. Displays with higher pixel density, wider field of view (FOV), and higher refresh rates are being developed to provide consumers with a more immersive experience.

Display resolution is one of the biggest challenges in VR head mounted displays (HMDs) as well as power consumption, size and weight of the VR HMD. Higher resolution displays are required to solve the screen door effect caused by short distances between the user’s eyes and the VR display. Although the majority of VR HMDs available today support resolution of 2K or less, HMDs with higher resolutions are starting to enter the market.

“Tethered VR devices which are usually targeted at gaming applications, support higher resolutions displays compared to mobile or standalone segments. A number of tethered VR devices provide 2K resolution and some with 4K resolution displays have already hit the market,” commented Khin Sandi Lynn, industry analyst from ABI Research.

VR prototypes with even higher resolution have already been developed. In early 2017, Panasonic demonstrated VR HMD of 6400x1440 resolution, 200-degree FOV, by using 4 LCD display with 1600x1440 resolution each. Another VR HMD maker which showcased high resolution display was Pimax - its VR prototype supports 8K resolution with 200-degree FOV. Gaming and high-end entertainment requiring higher graphics are likely to drive the demand for high resolution VR displays.

While improving the VR display resolution, headset makers are also working towards development of foveated rendering, which computes the highest quality image only at the center of the human visual field. “While our eyes can see full resolution only at the center of vision, foveated rendering tracks eye movement and enables the processor to render full resolution on display any area where the eyes are focusing,” Lynn explains. With efficient eye-tracking technology, foveated rendering sharpens the image at the focus point of the eyes, and reduce the resolution outside the focus point saving the graphic processing loads. Foveated rendering and eye tracking are likely to become important technologies in future VR HMDs for rendering high resolution images.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Display Technologies in Virtual Reality report.This report is part of the company’s Video, VR & OTT research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. 

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