Facebook signs exclusive supply deal with AR display maker Plessey

Facebook will exclusively buy Plessey’s AR displays.
Image: Plessey

Facebook recently signed an exclusive supply deal with augmented reality (AR) display company Plessey, reports The Information. The social media company will use the British firm’s microLED screens as part of its AR project. Notably, the Menlo Park, California-based corporation beat out Apple in its arrangement with the English hardware company.

Why Facebook Made a Deal with Plessey

Although Facebook currently has its hands full adjusting its platform to meet the needs of the post coronavirus outbreak world, the company is still pursuing its long-term goals. Last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his team that smart glasses will one day supplant smartphones as the world’s most popular consumer electronic device. Moreover, the executive wants his company at the forefront of the connected eyewear revolution.

Accordingly, the corporation inked an exclusive supply deal with Plessey.

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The Information reports Facebook wanted to acquire the 20-year-old electronics component company but made other arrangements to avoid government scrutiny. This way, the corporation gets unfettered access to its new partner’s incredibly promising technology.

Plessey both designs and manufactures microLED screens for use in augmented reality wearables. The company utilizes a proprietary gallium nitrate-on-silicon platform to create its displays, which makes them very light. The big problem with current generation AR headsets is that their weight makes them too uncomfortable to casually wear.

Facebook wasn’t the only Big Tech corporation interested in harnessing Plessey technology for its forthcoming projects. Apple, which is developing its own AR project, reportedly also tried to make a deal with the English manufacturer, but lost out to the social media giant.

In a statement, Facebook expressed considerable faith in its new supplier. The company said it plans to use its technology to make “a glasses form factor that lets devices melt away so we can be more present with our friends, families, and surroundings.”

Facebook’s Future Lies in AR Hardware

Although its 2.45 billion monthly active users make it the king of social networking, Facebook has grander ambitions.

The central focus of the firm’s hardware division is to create a revolutionary AR product. Last September, the corporation partnered with Ray-Ban’s parent company Luxottica to craft a new connected glasses solution. The Silicon Valley Titan will reportedly put that offering on sale in 2023, but it’s merely an entry-level product.

Facebook’s true smartphone replacement is under development in a 775,000-foot hardware complex that’s currently under construction. That facility’s focus is on making an AR wearable that integrates brainwave reading technology developed by CTRL Labs, a startup the corporation bought last fall.

In addition, the social networking company wants custom microchips to power its next-generation mobile products. The firm tried to buy Cirrus Logic fabless semiconductor maker for that purpose last year.

Facebook is also developing a mobile operating system that will manage the functions of its next-generation AR headset.

Upon making its exclusive supply deal with Plessey, Facebook noted that its game-changing AR solution is years away from deployment. However, the company’s continued investment in well-regarded hardware companies indicates it’s all in on becoming an Apple-style holistic consumer technology company.


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