So what is the latest buzz on virtual reality? After a decade of development, this generation of VR is packing a lot more technology into an even smaller space - but as material science engineers and manufacturers I can say with confidence we're ready for it.
Even if you aren't into gaming, the updates in processors, sensors, cameras, batteries, and displays should catch your attention. Technology developments are driven by application needs - in this case VR needing to be more accurate, interactive, and lighter.
The smaller, more powerful silicon chips are made using 7nm technology - from an assembly point of view that is a 13x13mm package we need to get placed and attached onto the circuitboard. On that scale reliability becomes a challenge; even small variations can be failure points when each connection is separated by only 0.35mm. Happily we have prepared for this package size by working on cell phone designs for the last few years. Our finer solder powders and fluxes are ready to help with tight process control.
Unlike cell phones, VR headsets need far more of the sensors spread out in very different locations. How do you think the headset knows where you are looking, or where your hands are? Sure the processor is doing the calculations to put it all together but we can all take a moment to appreciate how important flexible cirucits are becoming. The display, the processor, and ALLLL the cameras, buttons, and sensors need to be connected together. Flexible circuits are newer technology and more expensive than traditional PCBs - so it is on manufacturers (and us, the suppliers!) to make sure every connection works. The connection between flexible and rigid circuits can be built in with vias, or formed using Hot Bar Soldering.
The last thing I wanted to get into (though certainly not the end of the develoments in VR technology) is how much harder it is to have a display look good in VR versus on a TV or cell phone. Having a display so close to your eyes could easily be a headache waiting to happen. The lead players in VR are not only using high density LCD or OLED pixels (not microLED it seems yet...), but also using software to create an appearance of distance or in one case to track the wearer's eye movement to have the highest resolution only where they are looking - just like the human eye does.
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing and facilitating new future develoments in VR, and after all this I hope you are too!