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Facebook signs up Plessey for future AR lens project

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We’re still waiting for the day when a pair of good, commercially-viable smart glasses will be introduced to the market. Facebook may have taken a huge step ahead of its competitors as they seemed to have inked a deal with microLED specialist and display-maker Plessey. The deal with the UK company may be an important step as they pursue the creation of augmented reality wearables, although we may have to wait a few more years before that becomes a reality.

A lot of us are unfamiliar with Plessey but the company designs and manufactures microLED displays that bring both high pixel-density as well as high brightness. They have created small screens from simple sports eyewear to Full HD, RGB screens that replicate a smartphone interface. Instead of the relatively more common sapphire, they rely on gallium nitride (GaN)-on-silicon (Si) production.

microLED screens do not need backlighting as compared to LED screens and require lower power requirements. This means that this display may be crucial to Facebook’s goal of creating augmented reality eyewear. This agreement with Plessey will help Facebook develop a prototype and explore new technologies “for potential use in the AR/VR space”. Facebook has been exploring things like virtual reality headsets but they believe AR is the next big thing when it comes to social networks.

Other companies are also working on their respective projects in this area. Google, for example, is looking at other potential growth segments beyond smartphones and of course, form-factor is a major consideration. Apple is also working on an iOS-powered digital eyewear. Don’t discount the Chinese and Korean brands although we haven’t heard much news from that front. It will only be a matter of time before someone goes out of the gate.

Facebook doesn’t seem to be in a hurry because Mark Zuckerberg previously said it might arrive sometime this decade. But the fact that they have sealed a sort-of deal with Plessey means they’re ahead of the pack. But when that will become a commercial product is up in the air, especially during this time of uncertainty.

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