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Apple Glasses displays to use micro OLED; at trial production stage

The Apple Glasses displays are expected to be micro OLED ones, says a new report today. Not to be confused with microLED, micro OLED is an advanced form of display tech that is built directly onto chip wafers, and is ideal for the very small displays likely to be used in Apple’s augmented reality glasses.

The Cupertino company has reportedly been working on the project with A-series chipmaker TSMC under secrecy conditions that are extreme even by Apple standards …

While the Cupertino company reportedly plans to launch a high-end VR/AR headset first, it’s believed this is merely a stepping stone toward a mass-market consumer product that has been dubbed Apple Glasses. This is expected to be a device that looks much like conventional glasses, but with small embedded displays to overlay information like map directions, messages, app notifications, and so on.

Nikkei cites its own sources for the report.

Apple has partnered with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to develop ultra-advanced display technology at a secretive facility in Taiwan, Nikkei Asia learned […]

Apple’s complex in Longtan Science Park consists of several unmarked white buildings – there is no company logo or address on the outside, and only a very faint apple symbol could be seen in the lobby, Nikkei reporters saw on a recent visit. Apple registered a company at the park in 2014, and expanded it in 2020. The complex is within walking distance of TSMC’s advanced chip-packaging and testing plant, which is located in the same science park […]

The California tech giant plans to develop micro OLED displays – a radically different type of display built directly onto chip wafers – with the ultimate goal of using the new technology in its upcoming augmented reality devices, sources briefed on the matter said.

Apple is collaborating with its longtime chip supplier TSMC because micro OLED displays are not built on glass substrates like the conventional LCD screens in smartphones and TVs, or OLED displays used in high-end smartphones. Instead, these new displays are built directly onto wafers – the substrates that semiconductors are fabricated on – allowing for displays that are far thinner and smaller and use less power, making them more suitable for use in wearable AR devices, according to sources familiar with the projects.

Although micro OLED is a different technology to microLED, Apple is said to be working on both display types at the same facility.

Apple’s other display project at the Longtan campus focuses on micro LED technology, which the company hopes to eventually use in the Apple Watch, iPads and MacBooks. Apple has partnered with Taiwanese LED company Epistar to co-develop the technology.

Like micro OLEDs, the micro LED project also involves some chip manufacturing technology. The components are 100 times smaller than those used in LED lighting products and they do not need backlight modules like traditional LEDs and LCDs, meaning the display can be much thinner. Micro LEDs also provide high color contrast and can be used to make curved or foldable screens, similar to OLED screens.

The report says that the Apple Glasses display project “is now at the trial production stage,” designed to ensure that eventual mass-production plans are realistic. It’s important to note that while this is an important milestone along the way, it still represents an early stage in the project as a whole. Trial production here relates to the Apple Glasses displays, rather than to the AR devices themselves.

Today’s report says that the embedded displays will be less than one inch in size, and that Apple is being even more serious about confidentiality than usual.

Anyone who signs up to work on the program must sign a strict non-disclosure agreement that forbids them from even meeting with friends or acquaintances working in the tech industry, the source added.

Concept image: Antonio De Rosa

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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