Sharp has unveiled a new prototype display designed for virtual reality headsets at CEATEC in Japan. The new display boasts a whopping 1,008 pixels per inch for an ultra-sharp viewing experience that eclipses everything on the market right now.
For specialisations, the display offers up a resolution of 1920 x 2160 and measures 2.87-inches diagonally. The display is built on the company’s IGZO-TFT technology, which boasts improved refresh rate performance over low cost a-Si based LCD panels, better power consumption for additional brightness, and also allows Sharp to scale down its panel transistors to produce very small, high resolution displays.
Combining two of these displays together, one for each eye, would offer viewers a 4K experience (3840 x 2160) that is notable sharper than displays used in current consumer VR hardware. Rather than just plain old resolution, pixel density is equally important for virtual reality, as the displays are positioned much closer to the viewers eyes than when watching a TV or viewing a smartphone. If the density is too low, viewers may notice the pixels appear as a distracting “screen door” effect, although sub-pixel layout also plays an important part in the display’s presentation.
The panels used in current VR headsets top out at under 600 pixels per inch and don’t produce the sharpest results. The QHD panels found in Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones used in its Gear VR headset provide a resolution of 2560 x 1440(1280 x 1440 per eye) over a 5.2-inch display at its smallest, for a pixel density per inch of 577. The HTC Vive features a 1200 x 1080 resolution display for each eye measuring 3.62-inches, which results in 447 pixels per inch, while the Oculus Rift hands in a near identical 461 PPI. Sony’s Playstation VR falls the furthest behind, with a pixel density of just 386 PPI.
Of course, we’re not just waiting on new high resolution display technology to improve the look and feel of virtual reality. Currently, high frame rate 4K rendering remains beyond the reach of all but the most expensive PC setups, so software creators and processing hardware designers are facing an equally demanding challenge to help bring top quality virtual reality to a broader consumer base. It may be some time yet before all of these components are ready to produce a truly next generation VR headset.
Unfortunately, Sharp has not stated if or when it will begin manufacturing its ultra-high pixel density display, nor did the company list any potential hardware partners. Even so, this is an exciting prospect for future VR headsets.