The ultimate display era of “screens on all surfaces” brings another possibility for the Metaverse

VR is not the only solution to the Metaverse

In 2021, the enthusiasm of the Metaverse will usher in the once-quiet VR market once again.

VR companies have become hot investment targets, and they are also the targets of technology giants. In August, ByteDance acquired Pico, a VR company, at a price of 9 billion yuan. In overseas markets, Meta (formerly Facebook) and Epic are also frantically investing and acquiring various VR game studios to improve their Metaverse territory.

In the consumer market, in September 2020, Meta’s VR headset Quest 2 was launched. Outsiders predict that this product is expected to achieve shipments of 10 million units this year. This means that Quest 2 is about to become the first phenomenon-level headset product in the VR industry. And beside us, VR experience halls and game rooms have already been spread all over major shopping malls.

The unique charm of the Metaverse lies in the creation of an illusory dream that is completely different from the real world. However, the time we can stay in this dream is restricted by various realistic conditions. For ordinary people, the best way to experience the Metaverse is still a VR headset. However, the heavy weight and poor battery life of VR headsets have become real obstacles that limit the development of the Metaverse world.

VR is not the only solution to the Metaverse

You may not be able to sit in front of the computer for an hour, but you can lie in bed and use your phone to watch short videos for most of the day. Compared with sitting in front of a computer, using a VR headset to experience VR games and movies is a sport with a higher threshold.

Currently, most mainstream VR headsets weigh more than 500g. The weight of these VR headsets is mainly concentrated in front of the human eyes, and the center of gravity is too far forward, requiring a strap to be fixed on the head, which further aggravates the discomfort of the VR headset. The bulky VR headset has naturally become a barrier to the popularization of VR.

In addition, some users will experience dizziness when wearing a VR headset. This is closely related to the display effect of the VR headset. When the frame rate is low, the delay is high, the angle of view is small, and the display clarity is not good, the user may feel dizzy after using the VR headset for a long time.

Among them, the problem of display clarity can be said to be the old and difficult problem of near-eye display technology.As we all know, the closer the human eye is to the screen, the more a screen with a higher resolution is needed. For example, a 55-inch large-screen TV with 4K resolution has a PPI of around 80; the PPI of mainstream smartphones is mostly between 300-500; and the PPI of a VR headset often exceeds 1,000. Ultra-high PPI means high hardware costs, but even so, many users still feel that the VR headset is not clear enough.

In addition, the Fresnel lens scheme adopted by VR headsets tends to form a so-called sweet point in the center of the picture. Outside of the sweet point, the picture definition in other areas is slightly blurred. While the lens magnifies the picture, it also produces a screen window effect (the pixel point and the pixel point have a black boundary), which further increases the graininess of the picture.

The problems of traditional VR headsets in terms of weight, battery life, and image quality limit users’ difficulty in immersing themselves in the Metaverse world for a long time. These problems may not even be resolved within 3-5 years.At the same time, the Pancake folding optical path and optical waveguide solution, which is regarded as the next generation of VR reality technology, is also difficult to produce consumer-grade products that can be mass-produced in a short period of time.

Today, the industry is exploring Metaverse solutions beyond VR, and science fiction movies have brought us new ideas. In many science fiction movies, most of the indoor spaces, including buildings and spaceships, are spread over various screens, providing humans with display and interactive windows.

The ultimate display era of "screens on all surfaces" brings another possibility for the Metaverse

The stills of the science fiction movie “Ander’s Game”, the flexible, transparent, and interactive screen brings immersive visual effects to the protagonist

In fact, this trend has already appeared in the real world. Nowadays, the screens of traditional display devices such as mobile phones, computers, and televisions are getting larger and larger; traditional household appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines have also begun to introduce display screens; more and more cars have begun to use display screens to replace traditional meters and central controls. The era of “all surfaces are screens” is no longer far away from us.

“The surface is the screen”

The decline in the price of display panels and the continuous advancement of display technology are driving the early arrival of this new era of ubiquitous screens. Among them, display technology innovation is crucial.

For example, the self-luminous nature of OLEDs makes the transparent screens commonly seen in science fiction movies a reality. Today, transparent OLED screens have been widely used in various shopping malls, exhibition halls, and restaurants.Some TV manufacturers even launched consumer-level transparent TV products.

The flexible screen, another frequent guest in science fiction movies, has long been known to the public. Nowadays, almost all major mobile phone brands have launched folding screen mobile phones. At the same time, another major feature of flexible screens is that they can be easily embedded in various scenes. For example, various curved surfaces in vehicles such as cars, trains, and airplanes can be filled with flexible screens.

The ultimate display era of "screens on all surfaces" brings another possibility for the Metaverse

Picture: A still from the sci-fi movie “Legacy of War”, showing that there are obvious curved surfaces on the screen

In May of this year, Rouyu Technology released its self-developed micro-LED based stretchable display technology (micro-LED based stretchable display technology), which brought a brand new form of flexible display.

In the eyes of most people, the most typical application scenario for flexible screens at this stage is a folding screen mobile phone. Its biggest feature is that the screen can be bent and curled like paper. The elastic flexible screen expands the “deformation” dimension of the flexible screen. In addition to bending and curling, it can also support large-scale deformations such as bumps, twists, and rotations.

The ultimate display era of "screens on all surfaces" brings another possibility for the Metaverse

Figure: The micro-LED elastic flexible screen technology released by Royole Technology

The technical staff of Rouyu Technology said that the flexible screen produced with elastic micro-LED display technology can achieve elastic deformation such as stretching, twisting, and rotation, and the stretching range can reach 130%, that is, the screen with a length of 10cm can be stretched to 13cm. At present, the pixel density of Rouyu micro-LED flexible screen can reach 120PPI, which has reached the display clarity of notebook computers and car screens.

In addition, the light transmittance of flexible micro-LED display technology is better than that of flexible OLED, which can reach 60-70%, which is equivalent to the light transmittance level of automotive film. Therefore, it can be applied to various transparent display scenes, such as automobile front windshield, car windows, etc., and ordinary glass in these scenes is transformed into a HUD that supports various types of information display.

The ultimate display era of "screens on all surfaces" brings another possibility for the Metaverse

The micro-LED elastic flexible screen released by Rouyu Technology supports large-scale deformations such as bumps, twists, and rotations.

If the flexible screen solves the display problem under the curved surface, the greatest significance of the flexible screen is that it can be applied to all kinds of complex, irregular and even dynamic surfaces, such as helmet windshields, sunglasses and even clothing fabrics. For example, a bionic robot equipped with an elastic flexible screen can “wrap” any part of the body on the display panel to achieve comprehensive information display and control interaction.

With the help of elastic flexible screens, we are one step closer to the era of “screens on all surfaces”. In fact, some of Rouyu’s flexible screens have begun to be used in commercial scenarios such as transportation.

For example, Rouyu has previously announced cooperation with aircraft manufacturer Airbus and rail transit vehicle manufacturer CRRC to apply flexible screens to passenger aircraft and maglev train cabins. Compared with the traditional display panel technology, the flexible screen not only can better fit the surface of the passenger cabin of the vehicle, but also can effectively reduce the weight and save the transportation cost of the enterprise. In addition, the safety of the flexible screen also makes it more suitable for use in vehicles.

Today, flexible display technology suppliers such as Royole have broken the monopoly of overseas companies such as Samsung and LGD, and have achieved independent research and development, design and manufacturing, and mass production applications of flexible screens. With more and more flexible screens, the era of “screens on the surface” is no longer far away.

The development of flexible reality technology also provides another possibility for Metaverse. If VR is regarded as a quick entrance for individuals to enter the Metaverse world, then a closed space filled with screens provides a more public and interactive Metaverse world. This also provides another option for entering the Metaverse world.

“Ultimate Display” Arrives

In the future, what is the ultimate form of display devices?

As early as 1965, Ivan Sutherland, the father of computer graphics and winner of the Turing Award, gave the answer. That year, he published the famous “The Ultimate Display” paper, and for the first time proposed new concepts of computer vision and interaction such as VR, head-mounted display, and eye tracking.

In this paper, Ivan also described the “ultimate display scene” of the future of mankind-“a room where the internal objects are controlled by a computer”:

The chair shown in it is so real that you can sit directly on it, the handcuffs shown in it will really handcuff people, and the bullet shown in it will undoubtedly be fatal. With proper programming, such a display mode can truly become the wonderland that Alice has wandered through.

The ultimate display era of "screens on all surfaces" brings another possibility for the Metaverse

Picture: The art design drawing of the sci-fi theme game “The Mandate”, the indoor scene is surrounded by ubiquitous screens and air projection equipment

Perhaps this will also become another form of the Metaverse. We can no longer be constrained by the head-mounted display, but build a room exclusively for ourselves through eye trackers, motion sensors, and ubiquitous flexible screens and even air projections. In this room, we can not only get an immersive audio-visual game experience, but also a free and unrestrained cloud gathering and cloud meeting with friends and colleagues at any time.

In this room, the Metaverse is no longer limited to games, but is extended to various scenes such as audio and video, life, social interaction, and work. Almost all actions in the human world can benefit from the “ultimate manifestation.”

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