AR/VR screens could be getting a lot better as ‘microLED’ tech sneaks out of the lab

Small displays like smartwatches and AR/VR applications are about to get a lot better, at least if Porotech has anything to do with it. Whereas regular LED displays have their red, green, and blue pixels side-by-side, in separate pixels, Porotech’s DynamicPixelTuning (DPT) tech promises to make every pixel capable of outputting all colors. The theory is that this gives displays four times the resolution in the same package; great in situations where the screens are very close to the human eye, such as in the head-mounted displays used for AR/VR.

The image at the top of this story shows the difference; on the left, how Porotech’s microLEDs would render the top of an ‘O’ character on a display. On the right, is how a traditional display has to render a white arc. In theory, at least, the difference means much crisper visuals.

The company says it is using a new class of Gallium Nitride materials, which enables its chips to produce any color visible to the human eyes. It explains that the DPT tech uses a modulated current to emit visible light covering the entire color spectrum on a single microLED chip, including pure white, which traditionally has been created by blasting the same amount of red, green and blue at your eye-holes all at once.

“Mass-produced microLEDs will be pivotal for the future of displays, particularly the emerging AR and VR spaces. Our technology has solved a fundamental technical and engineering problem facing microLED display quality, manufacturability, and—most importantly—system integration,” says Porotech’s CEO and Co-Founder Dr Tongtong Zhu. “This doesn’t just herald widespread adoption of consumer-grade MR, VR, and AR. In fact, DPT also offers radical improvements in TV, signage, and smart wearables in both consumer and professional contexts. By allowing pixels to move beyond RGB and quadrupling the resolution of any given display, DPT is set to unlock new uses for displays in every segment of society.”

The company shared a video of a prototype of the technology in action, although why it chose to do so is a little beyond me, because showing off how microLED technology works would probably be best done in person. Anyway; may the below further slake your curiosity:


The company will be showing off the technology to the public for the first time at CES next year, so we’re planning to go take a look with our own eyes then.

AR/VR screens could be getting a lot better as ‘microLED’ tech sneaks out of the lab by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

YC and a16z back virtual reality basketball app Gym Class

Despite Zuckerberg & Co. spending billions of dollars on virtual reality tech every fiscal quarter, the wider VR startup ecosystem has been having a tough few years coming down from the highs of 2016, when investors dumped money into the sector expecting Oculus-sized returns only to see most of their investments slowly wilt away.

This makes it fairly notable news whenever a big institutional investor makes a bet in a VR startup these days — even just a seed round. Earlier this week I sat down with the folks at basketball virtual reality app Gym Class, which just closed an $8 million seed round from Andreessen Horowitz. Other backers include Founders, Inc., Todd and Rahul’s Angul Fund and Balaji Srinivasan.

Gym Class is what they call a VR pure-play — the experience relies on the hardware, and the mechanics only make sense in VR. So, in theory, a bet in the company isn’t just a bet on the ability of the team, but the near-term viability of the space they’re operating in. It’s a safer bet in a world where Meta and Apple are investing heavily in the sector, but still risky given uncertainty around the timing of further headset adoption.

Even among other VR titles, the game itself is early — Gym Class isn’t even available in Meta’s Quest Store yet. To date, the nearly 1 million downloads of the free app have taken place on Meta’s App Lab storefront, a hub for games that show early promise but may have a good deal of development ahead of them before they’re ready for prime time. So far, Gym Class has gotten quite a bit of attention before even landing on the official Quest store largely due to TikTok shares of gameplay footage.

Image Credits: Gym Class

Gym Class’s product head Paul Katsen tells TechCrunch that the startup is thinking about the experience as more of a social hub than a simple game, one that allows people to hop into a virtual space and bond over the sport and culture around basketball. Gym Class is tightly focused on basketball for the time being, the company says, and doesn’t have any near-term plans to build out a wider offering of sports experiences.

The company’s upcoming official Quest Store launch is a big moment for the company, but cements just how critical Meta’s platform remains for any and all virtual reality developers. Late last month, Meta made a stir by announcing a price increase of their long-available Quest 2 headset, citing a need to recoup investment in the low-margin device.

“If you become reliant on these platforms for distribution, you don’t build your own distribution platform,” Katsen says, “When we see prices are going up by $100, yeah that’s a bummer, but still — the trajectory at which it’s growing — it’s outselling consoles.”

The outlook is getting more complicated for Meta’s virtual reality dreams

For an industry that rarely has major news anymore, this was an awfully big week for virtual reality. Unsurprisingly, all of the important data points are related to the industry’s sole benefactor these days, Meta, which managed to raise the cost of entry to its VR ecosystem, find itself in a new battle with the US government over VR, and announce that it had, again, burnt an awful lot of money on its Reality Lab efforts this quarter.

The strangest bit of news was definitely the seemingly unprecedented move for Meta to jack up the prices of the Quest 2 by $100. This is, again, a one-year-old headset that Meta has purportedly been selling at a loss in order to coax more consumers into the market. This hefty increase takes the entry price from $299 to $399 and signals that the company’s willingness to subsidize headsets into relevancy has its limits.

This price hike accompanies record inflation levels and a hostile stock market which has taken a particularly strong hatchet to Meta’s stock price. The company’s stock is now trading below where it was 5 years ago and the spending at Reality Labs has become a more pertinent concern for investors as the company’s revenue growth starts to fade.

VR and the metaverse are getting to be very expensive efforts for Meta. The company announced Wednesday that they had spent $2.8 billion on Reality Labs in Q2 alone, a number showcasing that the company’s metaverse dreams are more than just hokey marketing speak and remain a substantial financial bet with little near-term upside in an arena where plenty of big tech giants have seemed to pull back their R&D spend in recent years.

What’s worth recalling is why Meta pursued the strategy of selling headsets at-cost to begin with. This wasn’t the company’s initial plan, the Rift headset and its controllers retailed for nearly $800 when they launched and it was only after years of price drops that the company was able to scale sales of the device. That was, of course, a piece of hardware that necessitated a gaming PC and was one with close competitors at similar price points.

Fast forward 5 years and there may still be a handful of headsets out there, but the cornerstone of headset number growth recently has seemed to be pinned exclusively to the Quest 2 which is the lowest-cost point of entry on the market. Raising prices of tech hardware product in the middle of its lifecycle certainly suggests a fundamental miscalculation and one the company is less likely to repeat.

As the company barrels towards the release of its “Project Cambria” headset which Bloomberg has reported will be called the Quest Pro and rumors have pegged at a $1500 price point, the VR industry seems like its going to be forced to compete on the relative merits of its ecosystem and justify something closer to the true cost of its hardware for consumers. This would be a big, sudden shift for Meta to make and I question how big the audience of users for a $1,500 headset is in 2022, even one with a “professional” focus.

Meta’s efforts aren’t taking place entirely in solitude. Sony announced new details on its second-generation headset this week, and Apple has been investing heavily in a long-delayed mixed reality headset release, a device which may cost upwards of $3,000 when it is eventually released and will undoubtedly serve as an outlier in its suite of “Pro” products.

Apple seems poised to gain an advantage when it comes to acquiring new startups and products in the VR space, however. Meta’s efforts to spend big to win big in the metaverse encountered a fairly concerning challenge Wednesday when the FTC announced that they were suing to block Meta’s purchase of VR developer Within, the studio behind VR fitness app Supernatural. A block of the deal, which was reportedly for over $400 million, would be a pretty stunning rebuke of one of the VR industry’s only exit opportunities, during a stage of the industry where revenues are hard to come by and VR startups are failing to earn much investor interest.

After the better part of a decade since Facebook’s Oculus acquisition, the VR industry is still as wholly reliant on Meta’s checkbook as ever. A public market downturn is forcing an adjustment to the company’s infinite spend on the subcategory and there are clear to be plenty of second-order effects on the way.

Meta’s next VR headset might be called the Quest Pro

The company formerly known as Facebook may soon release its first new piece of VR hardware since rebranding to Meta last year. According to developer Steve Moser in a report from Bloomberg, the next headset will be called the Quest Pro (sorry, Nintendo fans). Moser found the name “Quest Pro” in the code of Meta’s Oculus mobile app.

Meta declined to comment when asked if the company could confirm or deny the legitimacy of the Quest Pro name.

Meta has long teased a “high-end” VR headset to complement the consumer-grade Quest 2, which retails around $299. Codenamed “Project Cambria,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently showed off the device’s mixed-reality capabilities in a demo video.

The Quest 2 has greyscale passthrough cameras, which help users see their real-world surroundings without removing their headset. But the Quest Pro will have full-color, more realistic passthrough capability, plus depth sensors that help to accurately place digital objects into physical space. If leveraged correctly, the Quest Pro could be poised to produce some pretty sophisticated AR experiences, but Meta won’t be without competition. Apple is also reportedly working on a mixed reality headset.


In May, a report from The Information said that Meta’s new headset is expected to cost $799, while Bloomberg’s report today stated that it will cost more than $1,000. Apple’s rumored headset is also expected to be higher-end, which isn’t surprising for a company that sells four-figure laptops.

So far, Meta’s plunge into virtual reality hasn’t been profitable. In the first quarter of this year, Meta’s Reality Labs lost about $3 billion, and last year, the division lost over $10 billion. Though Meta launched Ray-Ban smart glasses with a built-in camera last year, the company seems to be diverting its attention away from more casual hardware. After slowed revenue growth and some hiring freezes, the company is rumored to be scaling back its plans to develop AR glasses. Meta is also reportedly halting production on a smart watch with built-in cameras.

Despite these setbacks, last month, Meta pulled back the curtain on its VR hardware development. The company shared four prototypes from Reality Labs which attempt to pass the “visual Turing Test” (in other words, Meta wants to make headsets that are so realistic you might forget you’re in VR).

“There’s still a long way to go, but I’m excited to bring all this tech to our products in the coming years,” Zuckerberg said in a demo.

Apple said to be planning 12″ MacBook, 15″ MacBook Air and 14.1” iPad Pro for 2023 releases

A pair of reports published today potentially reveal Apple’s 2023 laptop and iPad lineup. If true, big changes are coming. Literally big: Apple is rumored to be building a 14.1-inch iPad Pro and a 15-inch MacBook Air.

Both reports come from sources with great track records. Ross Young today revealed the 14.1-inch iPad news, and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman published a detailed report outline the 15-inch MacBook Air details, along with a potential release schedule for Macs powered by the unannounced M2 Pro and M2 Max chipset.

According to Young, the upcoming giant iPad will sport a MiniLED display powered by Apple’s ProMotion display technology. This claim is inline with a previous report that stated the 14.1-inch iPad Pro would be powered by the M2 chipset, and it would come with 512GB of storage and 16GB of base memory. Likewise, the M2 chip is also coming to the smaller versions of the iPad Pro.

The MacBook Air is rumored to grow in size, too. According to Gurman, Apple is planning on releasing the largest version of the MacBook Air to date as soon as Spring 2023. The company apparently previously shelved an earlier 15-inch version of the MacBook Air to focus on the 13.6-inch announced earlier this week at Apple’s 2022 developer’s conference. Gurman’s report also states Apple is building a new 12-inch laptop, and is targeting a 2023 or early 2024 release. If released, this would be Apple’s smallest laptop since the discontinuing the 12-inch MacBook in 2019.

Predictably, new high-end MacBook Pros are expected to hit the market in late 2022. These notebooks are expected to be powered by upgraded versions of the M2 chipset, likely called the M2 Pro and M2 Max. Since this product line was released revamped, little changes are expected outside of the new processor.

Earlier this week, Apple held its annual developer’s conference, where the company unveiled a host of new products including the M2 chip, a redesigned MacBook Air, and new versions of its desktop and mobile operating systems.

Quest 2 fitness tracking finally lands Apple Health integration

Facebook’s Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 headset has managed to carve out a surprisingly sizable niche as a high-tech piece of exercise equipment as people use software like Beat Saber and Supernatural to get a cardio workout in. There have been some limits to the experience, though, given the standalone nature of the virtual reality headset.

Today, Meta announced that the Oculus Move service is boasting a new integration with Apple Health as well as a mobile view of health stats in the Oculus mobile app. Previously, health data including active time spent, calories burned and goals/progress was only viewable in-headset.

Meta hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt on privacy matters over the years, so they are specifying that exporting movement data from the headset to your phone or the Apple Health app is strictly opt-in and that this data will not inform ad suggestions.

It’s a fairly low-key (and long overdue) update for the headset, but one which plenty of frequent users will be happy to see landing on their devices at last.

At the company’s most recent Connect keynote, CEO Mark Zuckerberg specifically highlighted the Quest’s popularity as a workout device.

“A lot of you are already using Quest to stay fit, it lets you work out in some completely new ways,” Zuckerberg said in the keynote. “It’s kind of like a Peloton, but instead of your bike you just have your VR headset and with it, you can do anything from boxing lessons to sword-fighting to even dancing.”

Company formerly known as Facebook unceremoniously kills off ‘Oculus’ brand

At the company’s AR/VR-focused Connect event this morning, Mark Zuckerberg announced that despite a name change, Facebook Meta’s mission will remain the same and that its existing brands wouldn’t be changing.

“To reflect who we are and what we hope to build, I am proud to announce that starting today, our company is now Meta. Our mission remains the same — it’s still about bringing people together. Our apps and our brands — they’re not changing either,” Zuckerberg said.

Well, it turns out that’s not so true. In a lengthy Facebook post, CTO-in-waiting Andrew Bosworth detailed about 15 minutes later following the completion of the keynote that as part of the new rebrand, they will be killing off the Oculus brand.

Oculus phrasing was conspicuously absent from the presentations today and features like the Oculus Store were consistently referred to as the Quest Store. In his post, Bosworth details that starting early next year the process to rename the Oculus app to the Meta app and the Oculus Quest to the Meta Quest will begin.

“We all have a strong attachment to the Oculus brand, and this was a very difficult decision to make. While we’re retiring the name, I can assure you that the original Oculus vision remains deeply embedded in how Meta will continue to drive mass adoption for VR today,” Bosworth wrote.

Facebook bought Oculus VR back in 2014.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is in development for Oculus Quest 2

During its big VR and AR-focused event Thursday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major new title headed to its VR platform that should turn a few heads.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is on the way to the Oculus Quest 2. San Andreas is Rockstar’s well-loved 2004 entry into the hit GTA franchise, which invites players to wreak havoc in an urban open world fashioned after cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“This new version of what I think is one of the greatest games ever made will offer players an entirely new way to experience this iconic world in virtual reality,” Zuckerberg said.

Bringing such an iconic game into the fold is certainly one way to lure more users into the company’s emerging virtual world — one that even folks squeamish about Facebook’s VR account login requirements might find enticing.

While Zuckerberg didn’t offer many details about what to expect or when, Facebook has apparently been working on bringing the GTA classic to its VR headset for years.

Slack is coming to the Oculus Quest

Soon you’ll be able to read incessant Slack messages without ever having to take your VR headset off.

At Facebook’s Connect conference, the company showcased a new framework for bringing 2D apps into the Oculus Store so that users will have to duck out of VR less to check notifications on their phone. While a number of Facebook apps are available today, the company also shared that Slack will soon be coming to the Oculus store.

The Quest has previously had very light support for 2D experiences, with most confined to the Oculus web browser. Facebook also previously rolled out native support for Messenger on the Oculus Quest 2 and announced today that they’ll bringing support for audio calls to the platform.

In August, Facebook showed off its Horizon Workrooms meeting simulator which integrated with Zoom and promised to bring users a more productive VR experience. The lack of app-support was a major roadblock on the way to this goal.

Typing in VR isn’t exactly a solved problem, so it’s likely that this will be an experience most suited for users that have paired their keyboard to the headset or are more comfortable just checking up on notifications rather than firing off a ton of lengthy messages.

Facebook opens Oculus Store to 2D progressive web apps

Facebook wants to make its Quest 2 headset a productivity device for a new generation of remote workers, but in order to pull that off, it needs apps.

Today, Facebook announced that they’re bringing 2D apps into the Oculus Store for the first time. The new apps which are based on the Progressive Web App (PWA) industry standard will allow users to check apps that they would have previously needed to take off their headset and see on their phone.

A handful of 2D apps are available in the Oculus Store as of today, including Facebook, Instagram, Smartsheet and Spike. Other apps on the way include Dropbox,, MURAL, My5 (UK), Pluto TV and Slack, the company says.

While the Oculus Store has seen native VR support from a handful of app-makers, maintaining a dedicated virtual reality app is complicated on multiple fronts and has led to apps from companies like Netflix and Hulu seeing very rare updates. Relying on PWAs will make the developer lift significantly lighter and will hopefully lead to broader adoption than Oculus has generally seen from app-makers.

The inclusion of 2D apps is part of a broader effort to bring the Quest into the workplace. In August, the company announced an app called Horizon Workrooms which allowed workers to bring their desktop into VR and communicated in a shared social VR space.