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Our Investment into Kubos Semiconductors

Why MicroLEDs are Important For The AR/VR Industry.

At FOV we spend a lot of time thinking about the future of computing and what’s needed to enable it.

For us, this mostly means startups working in fields like spatial computing, XR, AI, computer vision, 3D/gaming tech software, digital twins etc.

But many of the limitations to date have been tied to hardware developing at a slower rate to software.

VR and AR have been through several phases of development with major companies like Meta, Google, Apple, and Samsung investing billions into research and development. They continue to search for ways to accelerate advancements on the supply chain and component side. This is in response to demand for launching increasingly sophisticated and cost-effective devices.

As FOV Ventures, we’re already investing in the application, dev tools, and UI layer for spatial computing. We expect the whole category to grow exponentially over the next decade.

But to ensure this growth, we still need fundamental innovation at the infrastructure layer - from processing power and high-speed networks to optics and displays.

Mixed reality (MR) headsets have traditionally relied on LCD and OLED displays. However, a new champion is emerging — MicroLEDs.

In support of MicroLED innovation, we proudly announce our investment in Kubos Semiconductors.

Kubos are a UK-based startup developing innovative cubic GaN technology to create brighter, more efficient microLEDs for VR, AR, and the wider display market.

Having originally spun out from the University of Cambridge, the team also has facilities in Wales. We are co-investing in a $2m seed round alongside the Development Bank of Wales, S4C Digital Media Limited, and a number of prominent UK-based angels with notable success and experience in the semiconductor industry.

Additional research funding at this round comes from Innovate UK’s Future Economy Investor Partnerships scheme, which FOV Ventures is a participant in.

Why are MicroLEDs important for the AR and VR industry?

While traditional AR/VR headsets have largely depended on LCD and OLED technologies — with devices like Meta Quest using LCD — MicroLEDs address several critical limitations, including limited battery life; undesirable heating of the headset, leading to less ergonomic form factors; and poor visibility of the display in bright conditions.

MicroLEDs use of more durable inorganic materials, enable them to achieve significantly higher brightness levels compared to OLEDs.

We're talking about luminance in the range of millions of nits (measurement of brightness) for some of these displays - a monumental improvement over Meta’s Quest 2, which hits just 100 nits.

The ability to achieve such high brightness and a high pixel density (PPI) in multi-colour displays makes MicroLEDs a dream technology for developing AR systems with clear, glasses-like form factors.

This advancement promises to transform user experiences, allowing for highly immersive and visually dynamic AR applications.

And this is all before we get to the question around cost, and it’s knock on consequences for consumer affordability.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Superior Brightness, Colour Consistency and Contrast: As well as creating a more comfortable experience all round, this helps reduce poor visibility and enhances the display of virtual objects into the real world - in all sorts of lighting conditions, from a sunlit park to a dimly lit room.

  • Improved Energy Efficiency: A key challenge for headsets has been battery life and challenges around heat dissipation, leading to less ergonomic designs. MicroLEDs can address this problem and extend battery life in VR/AR headsets, a crucial factor for portable devices.

  • Compact and Scalable Design: Their small size enables sleeker, lighter headsets but still with high-resolution displays.

  • Faster Response Time: This reduces motion blur, creating a smoother and more immersive experience.

  • Durable and longer lasting: MicroLEDs offer superior durability compared to other display technologies.

Kubos’ approach uses a material called cubic gallium nitride (cubic GaN), rather than the more common hexagonal forms used in LEDs today.

This cubic form doesn't have some of the drawbacks that affect the efficiency of the hexagonal version, particularly in producing red light. By using cubic GaN, Kubos are developing microLEDs that could be brighter and more efficient in a smaller size, perfect for compact devices like VR headsets. To go deeper on these technical details, Kubos have produced this article breaking it all down.

Micro LED features miniature LED arrays. With modules becoming smaller, brighter, image quality, and response speed improve.

The Future of MicroLEDs is Bright (pun intended)!

The difficulty of producing micro-OLED and microLED displays is high, but the problems are worth solving.

These displays could make VR/AR more accessible—not only because the displays appear more lifelike, but also because small, thin, high-quality displays give engineers more freedom to tailor a headset’s look and feel.

Advancements from companies like Kubos, will unlock significant advancements, particularly in manufacturing processes and affordability.

MicroLED and OLED production has historically been complex, costly and difficult to scale - hence the high price tag on devices such as the Vision Pro.

Kubos helps overcome this issue enabling low cost and scalable mass production of energy efficient red microLEDs, paving the way for their widespread adoption in the next generation of MR headsets and other wearable devices.

We’re excited to add Kubos Semiconductor to our portfolio and if you’re working in this space or interested to learn more then please get in touch.