Facebook had predicted that AR glasses would soon become mainstream, but this has not been the case. But the tech giant has finally begun to take an active interest in more practical versions of these glasses. Recently, it announced that it is working with Plessey to invest in research on the deep tech stack and its components.
With Facebook’s consumer devices like Oculus Quest, Facebook has already demonstrated that it has a good chance of making AR glasses a reality.
Why Facebook Teamed Up With Plessey
AR headsets have been battling many problems, especially when it comes to practical usage. They are bulky, have low pixel density and brightness, and come with high power consumption. Facebook, with their recent partnership, believe that it can finally deliver on its promise of making AR glasses a reality with Plessey seemingly finding the answers in microLED technology.
“Plessey has been at the forefront of microLED display development, and this agreement recognizes the significant advances in capabilities that we have made in recent years, and we look forward to working with Facebook to help bring their vision to life,”said Dr Keith Strickland (Co-CEO/CTO – Plessey)
Plessey designs and produces microLED products. The microLED uses very small LEDs for pixels, and combines red, green and blue sub-pixels to reproduce a different colour. The microLED displays enable high contrast, high speed and a wide viewing angle. In addition to these, microLEDs also offer extra brightness. So, it seems like Facebook has turned to Plessey to accelerate its process towards building practical and efficient AR headsets
Facebook is taking this journey because of Plessey’s efficient microLED manufacturing for AR glasses, and is not turning towards OLED. Earlier, OLED – the sister technology of microLEDs – were considered best. Because of OLED’s emissive nature, the OLED microdisplays are best suited for AR smart glasses. It prevents virtual grey-shaded monitor-esque perception inside the field of vision of the user.
However, microLEDs do all that and more. The microLEDs displays (like OLEDs) enable high contrast, wide viewing angle, but what makes them different from their sister technology is better brightness. In fact according to Plessey, OLED delivers 1000 nits. Compared to this, the microLEDs deliver hundreds of thousands of nits for the same power consumption and in a more compact display.
But, as much promise as the microLEDs hold, they do have some problems. This has to do with the difficulties it poses when it comes to manufacturing. It encounters many challenges like the precision of the equipment, transfer yield, manufacturing time, etc. But, it seems like Plessey has overcome most of these challenges. Plessey claims that the new design where gallium nitride (GaN) LEDs are fitted onto silicon transistors is a unique solution to the manufacturing problems microLEDs present. They also believe that their ‘GaN on silicon’ technology design is the only technology platform capable of addressing all the challenges with microLED’s manufacturing without incurring high costs.
So, it is safe to say that Facebook has invested in this partnership with the primary purpose of accelerating their AR manufacturing.
Facebook intends to leverage this partnership to make AR headsets that can be worn by people like regular sunglasses, and at the same time, have high pixel density. However, that is not all. Facebook intends to build AR glasses that give more brightness with less power consumption. Plessey predicts that the consumer will only need to charge their device once a month.
Facebook has been teasing the idea of AR glasses for three years, and the tech giant has been promising AR glasses that could enable users to carry out tasks like smartphones do. However, Facebook’s executives have said that the technology will not be ready before 2022, but their vision has remained the same.
Where the adoption of tech like microLED was once believed to be depleting, it has significantly grown in recent times. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung unveiled a wall-sized TC using microLED technology, which showed that the tech is here to stay and grow. Apple also recently announced that it is working on its in-house microLED displays for use in mobile devices.