Micro-LEDs will help make the metaverse a reality

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As the metaverse buzz continues in 2022 and companies continue to rally and stake their claims as leaders in the emergent world, what innovations and technologies will drive the realization of what might appear like a science fiction world? Nikhil Balram, a former Google employee and expert in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) said in a LinkedIn post that micro-LEDs will make the dream of the metaverse a reality. 

Balram, who recently joined Saratoga, California-based AR contact lens start-up Mojo Vision as SVP and GM, said micro-LEDs will do that by “offering tiny display systems with the brightness required for digital content to meld perfectly with the real world and the energy efficiency and integration of compute and sensing to enable the form factor needed for all-day all-use AR glasses.”

Kanishka Chauhan, principal analyst at Gartner, said in an article published last year that miniaturized LED technology is enabling emerging use cases and is also driving differentiation in existing applications. Chauhan said product leaders should prioritize mini- and micro-LED adoption to help drive differentiation in existing applications and to enable new use cases. Mojo Vision claims it’s building the world’s first smart contact lens with a built-in display that provides timely information without interrupting your focus

Enabling the ultimate invisible computing platform

Mojo Vision wants to bring amazing displays to the metaverse and the realverse with what Balram called a “bold science-fiction-like vision of enabling the ultimate invisible computing platform in the form of a smart, augmented reality contact lens.”

Balram said the Mojo Vision display team has produced micro-LED displays that are the world’s smallest and densest. He told VentureBeat that this is a key enabling tech for AR glasses, especially brightness for all-ambient-use and efficiency for all-day-wear. 

“Building a platform like this required innovation at nanoscale across a range of building blocks like optics, imagers and display. All done on standard semiconductor processes that can scale in volume and cost to serve everything from the original contact lens target to AR glasses, wearables, hand-held and large format displays,” said Balram.

Massive benefits from energy reduction 

While light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the world’s most efficient light source, according to Balram, and widely used as illumination sources for displays, the system efficiency is limited by the lossy layers the light goes through to form pixels. However, Micro-LEDs — with emitter sizes shrunk to micron scale using semiconductor technologies — bring that direct pixel architecture to all displays, he said.

Balram said Micro-LEDs will scale up to find their way into all displays and bring huge energy reduction benefits to the real world as well.

“Imagine cutting the total power consumption of all displays in the world in half. Their unique size, brightness, efficiency and semiconductor DNA will enable old concepts from science fiction like transparent displays in our hand, on our desks and as our windows, light field tables for e-sports, games and architectural models, perfectly form-fitted auto-console displays, room-size holodecks that let us walk the metaverse with nothing on our face and much more,” said Balram.

Mojo Vision was founded by Drew Perkins and Michael Wiemer in 2015. The company has raised $204 million in total funding to date.

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