MicroLEDs prepare to take flight

Dr Eric Virey, Senior Analyst for Displays at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, offers insight into the applications, acquisitions and investments of the rapidly evolving microLED industry to ELECTRO OPTICS – The microLED industry is close to a defining moment, with many encouraging signs for increased production and reduced costs, but the flight plan is not yet confirmed and there are still obstacles on the runway.

Today, microLED prototypes are available in a variety of sizes, form factors, pixel densities, and as transparent or flexible displays, but there is no one application imminent to drive adoption.

MicroLED applications

MicroLEDs are well-positioned for success in enterprise augmented reality (AR), such as warehouse-related applications. 

Vuzix, for example, introduced a commercial product last year and other products and prototypes are expected to be available in 2023. Most of these emerging products use micro displays from JBD (Jaybird Displays). 

Consumer AR however still lacks a “killer app”. Challenges include issues around computing, processing bandwidth, thermal management, form factor and social acceptance. 

For the automotive market, microLEDs are attractive for flexible displays within the vehicle. But it may be some years before the technology is mature enough to be at the right price point.

Samsung has been showing microLED TVs for five years. An 89-inch model planned for 2022 has been pushed back to 2023 or later, and when it is available, it is likely to be priced at over $80,000. 

There is little traction for microLEDs in notebooks and tablets, but the cost-sensitive smartphone is probably the most challenging application. Success here may only be possible after a successful smartwatch introduction. 

Apple, Samsung and AUO are all working on a microLED smartwatch…