John Fan Focuses His Role at Kopin

On September 7, 2022, Kopin announced a new CEO for the company – Michael Murray. As John Fan has led the company since its inception in 1985, we wanted to know more about his plans, so he kindly provided answers to the questions below.

I understand you have appointed a new CEO to take over the day-to-day operations of Kopin.   Why now?  Are you retiring, semi-retiring, or making a transition to a new role?

We have many opportunities at the moment, particularly around the Metaverse, that require a focused attention. These opportunities, along with a number of defense programs that are transitioning to production, require an expansion of the management team. We believe adding Michael Murray with his background in defense and business operations allows the best allocation of resources.  As we stated in the press release, I will remain Chairman of Kopin and all the subsidiaries and will work closely with Michael on this important transition, while I continue to focus on strategic and scientific matters, especially related to the Metaverse.

How is the state of Kopin?

We are doing just fine. Our quarterly earnings call is coming up soon so more details will be available at that time.

Tell me more about the new CEO?

He is an engineer by trade with a very strong background in defense.  Also, he has a strong academic background with an MBA from MIT. What stands out is that early in his career he did start-ups, which is an important experience to run an innovating company like Kopin. So he has the start-up experience but also the big company experience working for companies like Analog Devices and Ultra Electronics Group Ltd.  Adding the pieces, strong academics, work experience, and focus on defense, he is an excellent fit for what we needed.

You have helped usher in two major technology commercializations over your career. Do you see commercialization of the audio metaverse as one of your key focus areas?

I believe you are referring to our HBT and display products. Of course, I have been involved in several more as a co-founder of a variety of companies that were sold. Right now I am focused on the Metaverse.  As we discussed one year ago at the series of webinars given by me and hosted by you on the topic of AR/VR/MR, Metaverse is a continuum of digital virtual world with analog physical world. Audio and sight are the two most important senses to incorporate into our virtual and physical worlds. The Audio Metaverse is cognitively much easier to be accepted by human brains. In fact, audio devices such as audio headsets and earbuds now have over US $30B sales per year.  Actually, Apple has about $40B annual sales from wearables – AirPods and watches – more than the 20% of Apple’s annual revenue that comes from smart phones.  The Audio Metaverse is much further along, but the Metaverse, when combined with sight, would be a game changer. Besides audio, we are making great progress in our OLED microdisplays and Pancake optics. These two components are critical to Metaverse wearables. You saw that the new i-Phone received less than exciting reception, and companies are anxiously looking for the next major platform which is why the Metaverse is gaining all the attention.

Affiliated company Solos already offers audio metaverse glasses so how can these evolve in the next few years?

The Audio Metaverse will follow the normal trend, smaller, lighter, less expensive, and lower power consumption.  Solos is doing well, and we are excited about Solos audio glasses.   However, defining and creating products that provide the full power of the audio and sight Metaverse is my focus.

How will you be involved in the expansion of your OLED-on-Silicon microdisplay business?

OLED on Silicon is a necessary condition and it is something I have been working on for a while.  Maybe this is the right time to discuss the current major challenges and focuses for the Metaverse. As we stressed again and again, currently Metaverse experiences are limited by the performance of microdisplays and the magnifying optics. There have been various approaches to provide excellent huge images to our eyes. Now, the preferred approaches have narrowed down to OLED Display on Si (DoC) and Pancake optics. For DoC, one needs 1.3” diagonal and up to 4K by 4K resolutions with HDR performance. Kopin has reached 1.3”, 2.6K by 2.6K resolutions with HDR performance, and now plan to go to even higher resolution than 2.6K by 2.6K. One big challenge for such displays is how to achieve low power consumption. Kopin has an advanced architecture to get low power consumption, while still reaching HDR performance. We believe we may be the only company that has such advanced architecture. Perhaps we should have a webinar to discuss such an architecture. How about Pancake optics? We believe all VR and MR headsets will adopt Pancake optics. Such optics should be all plastic – not only because of cost and weight reasons, but because plastic optics provide design freedom. Future Pancake optics and 4k by 4K DoC will provide a much better experience than what one has now. Then, of course, as these two critical technologies are maturing, the supply capacities and cost elements are increasingly important.  We expect major exciting activities in 2023, when amazing MR Metaverse Glass, combining audio and sight, will appear in the marketplace. The mad race will then start. I want to be ready for the dash!

Kopin is also developing micro-LED displays for the metaverse. How will you be involved with this aspect of the company’s growth?

Micro-LED for practical purposes is quite a few years away for consumer applications. As we have stated in your earlier writeup, we invented microLED displays in early 1990s under DARPA and defense department fundings. The technology was very challenging then, and it is still challenging, especially for high resolution, color displays.  I will continue to provide my insights to the Kopin team and work with Michael on fleshing out our strategy as we go along.

Thanks John.

Chris Chinnock, Insight Media


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