Facebook boxes out Apple on AR displays

By

Plessy
Plessy has been at the forefront of micro LED display development.
Photo: Plessy

Apple’s long-rumored augmented reality glasses project may have suffered a serious setback thanks to Facebook.

The social network company reportedly reached a licensing deal with Plessey, a British firm that makes displays specifically for augmented reality displays. Apple supposedly was looking into acquiring Plessey. But Facebook rushed in and struck an exclusive supply deal with the company, effectively shutting out Cupertino.

According to a paywalled report from The Information, Facebook wants to make create “a glasses form factor that lets devices melt away so we can be more present with our friends, families, and surroundings.” The deal with Plessey allows Facebook to buy all of its displays, leaving Apple with fewer options for its own glasses.

“We have decided to work with Facebook to help achieve their vision of the next computing platform centred around people,” Plessey said in a statement. “Under a new commercial agreement, our LED manufacturing operations will be dedicated to helping Facebook prototype and develop new technologies for potential use in the AR/VR space.”

The race to win the AR war

Apple has been working on augmented reality and virtual reality headsets for a few years now. None of the company’s headsets have surfaced online yet. However, last week we did get a glimpse of a prototype VR controller made by the iPhone-maker.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has commented repeatedly on the potential he sees in augmented reality over virtual reality. Apple has been laying the groundwork for the release of Apple Glasses in the future with its ARKit software for developers. The company also is expanding the AR capabilities of its products with new LiDAR Scanner found on the iPad Pro. Observers expect Apple to make LiDAR one of the top new features on the 2020 iPhones, too.

Fans still won’t see Apple Glasses in the wild anytime soon. The company’s first AR products probably won’t launch until 2021 at the earliest. Sleeker, more powerful versions of the product likely won’t arrive until 2023 or so.