CES 2020: Panasonic Showcases Super-Compact UHD VR Goggles
Panasonic announced its new ultra-compact UHD virtual reality goggles that have HDR displays during the CES 2020. With scant details revealed so far, it is still uncertain whether this is just a concept or an actual product.
The Panasonic VR prototype has received lots of praise from some unexpected quarters- Oculus founder Palmer Lucky described the eyeglasses as “very cool” via a tweet. They are high-pixel density glasses that have an integrated mechanism for individual focusing.
The Panasonic VR headset is very cool! Great pixel density and ingenious IPD/focus personalization. pic.twitter.com/cFS7LwvRa8
— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) January 8, 2020
Panasonic’s HDR glasses with their UHD displays have been built for the 5G standard which is expected to take shape in the coming years as carriers across the globe roll out the ultra-fast network. They are the size of the swimming goggles. According to Panasonic, these eyeglasses are a first of its kind and with their small form factor, they will make for a comfortable fit that is almost similar to wearing normal eyeglasses. They do look like some steampunk goggles or the optical trial lens frames used by opticians, though.
The Panasonic headset has OLED microdisplays that have been jointly developed by both Panasonic and Kopin. However, these microdisplays are much smaller than regular panels making it possible to build compact headsets that are much smaller in size.
The challenge with microdisplays is that they generally cost much more to produce and because they are very small in size, it is more challenging to magnify them over a larger field of view. Even Panasonic innovation in the optics is likely to face a similar challenge.
According to the Panasonic description, the headsets will have ultra-high definition (UHD) resolution. This could be in the region of 3,840 x 2,160. However, it is not yet known whether this is the resolution per eye or the shared resolution between the two eyes.
This kind of display is capable of supporting High Dynamic Range (HDR) content. The HDR feature enables digital content to exhibit a much larger range of colors as well as luminance compared to the standard range that is found in most other displays. As a result, images appear almost real.
The audio is from the earbuds manufactured by Technics which is a Panasonic subsidiary. The drivers run on a magnetic fluid that allows for an “accurate stroke of the diaphragm” and outputs an “ultra low distortion reproduction”.
As already stated, it is still unclear whether the goggles are a product or a concept. Panasonic also hasn’t revealed whether they are powered with a smartphone or a PC or the kind of content platform that they will support. The images provided so far do not show whether the goggles have any port where a cable can be plugged in.
Panasonic issued a statement indicating that it is planning to continue with the further development of the new virtual reality glasses that will ensure they can be deployed in various applications in order to create customer value.
Current virtual reality headsets are still heavy and bulky which makes them uncomfortable to wear over an extended period of time. In order for virtual reality to become more mainstream, the hardware form factor will have to shrink even further. Panasonic VR hardware innovation is a harbinger of things to come on the VR hardware front in the future but such a design, with the current technology, likely sacrifices the field of view. The description of the new Panasonic VR goggles also doesn’t mention tracking, a microphone as well as other features that should be in an actual virtual reality headset.
On the VR front, this year’s CES was dominated by smaller and new players. There were no major announcements from the bigger VR players such as Oculus, HTC or Sony. With its new VR glasses that have a small form factor and UHD display, Panasonic is making its debut into the VR world in style.