Apple reportedly working with TSMC on micro OLED displays for AR devices

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A new report suggests that Apple is working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) on advanced Micro OLED displays for its AR glasses. The displays are said to be “radically” different and integrated directly onto chip wafers, making them extremely thin for use in smaller form factors like AR glasses. The development of the said displays is reportedly happening in a secretive facility in Taiwan.

Murmurs of Apple working on its own display tech have been making the rounds for a while now. In a bid to reduce its reliance on third parties for components, the company has been rumored to be working on micro LEDs for use in future Apple Watch devices and the like – thanks to the microscopic nature of these self-emitting light sources suited for low-powered devices. Now, these micro OLEDs are expected to be more advanced and smaller, resulting in the reliance on TSMC to produce them in conjunction with the chip wafers.

The report also states that the iPhone company is actively hiring experts in display technologies and OLED packaging for work on its technologies. However, the listings posted publicly in Taiwan does not offer much information into the actual products, and extremely strict non-disclosure agreements are being enforced on new hires to withhold the secrecy of these projects, the report adds.

Micro LED TVs are currently beginning to be offered by companies like Samsung, but the process of transferring these tiny LEDs to a panel – called LED-transfers – is still reportedly a challenge being faced by companies working on the technology, which might also plague micro OLEDs. Additionally, Apple isn’t the only company working on micro OLED displays, as Apple suppliers like Sony Semiconductor Solutions is also said to be developing the display technology for application on not just AR glasses, but also for other consumer products. China’s BOE Technology Group, another Apple supplier, is also said to have teamed up with other display manufacturers to work on micro OLEDs.

While it is not clear what exact benefits micro OLEDs bring in comparison to micro LEDs, the prospective application in lower-powered, less bright glasses suited for the eyes suggests that the OLED counterparts could be a better choice. Additionally, considering OLEDs are more flexible, they might also allow for higher flexibility in AR headset lenses.

With more companies actively developing the technology, it will be interesting to see if Apple relies on its partnership with TSMC alone when the display tech does mature, or if it outsources the production to more vendors. Rumors suggest that Apple will release its first AR headset in 2022, with AR glasses slated for a 2023 release. This ties in with rumors about Micro LEDs and OLEDs needing a few more years of development to reach the mass production stage.

Source: Nikkei Asia

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