#1146: Brad Lynch’s Journey as a VR Hardware Analyst: Valve Deckard, Speculative Patent Research, & Hardware Leaks

Brad Lynch has described his SadlyItsBradly YouTube channel as a speculation and prediction channel focusing on the next generation VR hardware, and it has been providing some of the most insightful and detailed VR hardware analysis in the XR industry. Lynch has been fusing together patent research, sources from the supply chain and wider XR industry, expert interviews, data mining techniques of import records and decompiled software updates to discover clues about future hardware, and in some cases leaks of CAD drawings for the Meta Quest Pro (1 2 3 4) and Quest 3. I had a chance to do an interview with him a year ago to understand more about his journey into doing this unique blend of hardware analysis, YouTube commentary, and independent reporting. In the past year he’s proven himself to have cultivated some amazing insider sources and consistently break news about the latest hardware developments. This post will summarize some of his reporting over the past year (with a full timeline down below), and set a broader context for my October 2021 interview with him.

Brad Lynch (aka SadlyItsBradley) got 17 out of 23 predictions on Meta Quest Pro confirmed to be correct.

The fact that Lynch got 17 out of 23 of his Meta Quest Pro predictions explicitly confirmed to be correct during Meta Connect made me want to dig up this more speculative conversation that I had with him nearly a year ago now.

I interviewed Lynch on October 22, 2021, which was 3 weeks after October 1, 2021 where he summarized 6 months of research and reporting on Valve’s Deckard, the standalone VR headset Lynch claimed was in development at Valve that was then independently validated by Ars Technica. On September 28, 2021 reporter Sam Machkovech got confirmation from Valve that Lynch was on the right track with an anonymous quote saying, “Sources familiar with matters at Valve have confirmed to Ars that information in the wild is legitimate—at least in terms of products being made within Valve’s headquarters, even if those products don’t ultimately see retail launches.”

In other words, there’s no guarantee the Valve Deckard standalone VR headset will ever see the light of day, but Lynch’s reporting catalyzed a tacit confirmation that they are indeed prototyping next-generation, standalone VR hardware. Valve News Network’s Tyler McVicker tipped me off to a Steam Dev Days 2014 talk by Robin Walker where he talked about how Valve will deliberately let certain information leak for fans like Lynch to piece together in a sort of alternative reality game, in order to build grassroots buzz but also get feedback from their fans.

I wanted to hear a bit more about Lynch’s journey into doing this type of speculative VR hardware analysis, and my October 2021 interview with him covers his journey into do these types of predictions. But because of the speculative and predictive nature of these work, then many of the things we talked about a year ago have not fully come to pass — but yet at the same time are still totally relevant today. This includes the future of micro OLEDs and micro LEDS display technologies, new types of varifocal and pancake lenses, the next generation modular VR HMD designs, and the types of XR hardware trends that Lynch has been seeing across all of the major XR hardware producers.

Lynch has been a big advocate for the importance of OLED microdisplays (μOLED) are predicts that they are going to figure prominently in the next phase of VR hardware as it decouples from smartphone-based screen components. After the recording of my interview, he went on to interview the eMagin CEO on OLED Microdisplays, scouted out the MeganeX HDR 5.2K microOLED at CES 2022, recapped the Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) VR/AR Display Forum, and attended the Society for Information Display (SID) Displayweek Conference with a full livestream breakdown.

Valve still hasn’t officially announced anything around the Deckard over the past year, and we still have yet to see a μOLED XR device launch in 2022. But the XR industry has started to move beyond key component parts that were developed for other contexts, specifically the display technologies primarily designed for mobile phones.

If you want to get some detailed analysis for what’s to come for the next generation of XR hardware, then be sure to tune into Lynch’s SadlyItsBradly YouTube channel, follow @SadlyItsBradly on Twitter for his latest threads and incremental reporting, support him on Patreon to get a first look at some of this more in-depth reporting, and check out his SadlyinReality blog for more in-depth hardware breakdowns (that sometimes have delayed cross-posts from his Patreon).

For more highlights of VR hardware coverage from Lynch across all of his channels, then see down below.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality