Apple, LG and Valve have come together to invest in eMagin. All three companies are collectively siphoning $10 million into eMagin, the OLED microdisplay maker, which is used primarily in the military, industrial businesses and healthcare.
The investment in eMagin is made via the new stock issuance and the deal was expected to be completed before the end of January. Apple, LG and Valve received a total of 6,451,613 shares of eMagin stock. All three also received warrants enabling them to purchase an additional 2,580,645 shares of eMagin stock at a price not revealed in the SEC filing.
The eMagin filing with the SEC gives some hint of the interest of these three companies in the OLED microdisplay. In the filing, eMagin stated that it is in talks with “multiple Tier One consumer product companies” to develop and design OLED microdisplay for headsets that would be used in the consumer devices.
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Presumably, the devices for which eMagin is looking to manufacture microdisplays could be anything for VR and AR headsets, including the AR glasses that are reportedly being developed by Apple, notes PhoneArena. About Apple’s AR glasses, analyst Gene Munster has already said that it could be a bigger hit than the iPhone.
Tech companies are increasingly diverting efforts towards virtual reality, a technology that offers a computer generated 3D environment to the customer. In 2017, Valve’s CEO, Gabe Newell, said that Virtual Reality technology will grow significantly in 2018 and 2019.
“We’re going to go from this weird position where VR right now is kind of low res, to being in a place where VR is higher res than just about anything else, with much higher refresh rates than you’re going to see on either desktops or phones,” Newell said.
Valve also partnered with LG to work on a head mount VR headset. As of now, eMagin offers the display with a maximum resolution of 2048 x 2048. Separately, in January, Apple launched it’s ARKit 1.5 for the developers. The kit comes loaded with new features to support richer apps including the ability to display items on vertical walls and doors and not just horizontal surfaces like tables.
LG, for years, has been hunting for such solutions as the company is expanding its patent portfolio. However, LG’s investment in eMagin fuels the buzz about its interest in the OLED technologies. Lately, the South Korean electronics giant has increased its OLED manufacturing capacities, hinting that its future high-end smartphones could come packed with such technologies. LG already offers the smartphone-backed VR headset LG 360, and is said to release its second-generation LG UltraGear VR soon.
Google also thinks highly of the OLED microdisplays. The company is already making advance research in such solutions in partnership with Sharp to better its AR and VR projects.
Virtual reality and augmented reality have been around only for a few years. Their high-end applications still cost a bomb in addition to the scarce third-party content. Further, the accessible platform such as Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Daydream still lack technical capabilities. Despite these limitations, companies are betting big on the segment with some analysts predicting it to evolve into a $40 billion market by 2020.