As rumours about Apple’s augmented reality efforts continue to heat up, a new report claims Apple has partnered with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to develop and produce sophisticated micro OLED displays for use in a future AR headset.
According to Nikkei Asia, Apple is deepening its relationship with TSMC — the manufacturer responsible for fabricating the A-series and M-series chips used in new iPhones and Macs — to produce micro OLED displays designed for use in AR devices.
A source with info on Apple’s micro OLED efforts told Nikkei Asia that the reason Apple chose TSMC over a traditional display maker like Samsung or LG is because “panel players are good at making screens bigger and bigger, but when it comes to thin and light devices like AR glasses, you need a very small screen. Apple is partnering with TSMC to develop the technology because the chipmaker’s expertise is making things ultra-small and good, while Apple is also leveraging panel experts’ know-how on display technologies.”
It seems TSMC will use part of its existing chip fabrication to begin early production on these displays, while working to build out additional production lines with Apple, who owns a research lab in Taoyuan, Taiwan (just minutes away from TSMC’s advanced chip-packaging and test facility).
Nikkei Asia’s source claims Apple’s micro OLED project has now reached the trial production stage, with full mass production still a few years away. This would suggest that despite rumours claiming Apple could release some kind of AR headset in late 2021 or 2202, Apple’s big push into AR/VR won’t happen until closer to 2023 or later.
When it comes to AR devices, micro OLED is seen as one of the next big leaps in technology from the OLED and LCD displays used in current devices. The big advantage of micro OLED is that diodes can be built directly on top of silicon wafers, instead of requiring an additional glass or plastic substrate, which allows for decreased thickness and increased energy efficiency.
However, it seems Apple is still trying to decide the final form of its eventual AR headset. Recent reports claim Apple is testing out multiple designs for separate AR and VR goggles, with the latter potentially set to include dual 8K displays.
Still, before Apple can release a headset to the masses, it’s got to get its tech figured out first, which seems to be exactly what Apple is doing by strengthening its partnership with TSMC.