Karl Guttag (KGOnTech) on MicroDisplay Technologies and the Hype of Holograms (Part 2)

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The Conversation

Karl Guttag writes a popular technology blog at kguttag.com where he dissects optics and display systems, including the efforts of Magic Leap. In this, the second of three parts of our conversation, Karl and I get into the details and tradeoffs of display technologies used in smartglasses. (For more on Karl, check out the previous episode. For a discussion about the challenges of consumer-grade smartglasses, check out the next episode.)

This episode is almost a masterclass in microdisplays.

In several years, you’re not going to care about the nitty gritty details of microdisplays. But if you are making decisions dependent on the timing and growth rate of consumer-grade AR smartglasses, you should care. The biggest barrier - the most important missing ingredient - to consumer-grade smartglasses is the display. Based on the technology available today, there is NO WAY Apple ships smartglasses in 2020. Karl estimates it’s going to take 5+ years for the display systems to be good enough. You’ll make better decisions about where and when to invest if you understand where the false promises are, where the real hope lies, and why it’s so hard.

Bottom line: until we have micro LED for microdisplays (not the same thing as Samsung’s micro LED TV tech), we’re stuck with LCOS and claims from micro OLED manufacturers that they will be good enough.

In this episode, we’ll dig into the attributes of microdisplay systems, some of the characteristics of light, and the available display technologies. We get into the weeds on this one.

To wrap up this episode, Karl debunks holograms - both the ones portrayed in Star Wars and the term thrown about by Microsoft and other AR companies.

The Request

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