MicroLED Maker Plessey Agrees Exclusive Deal With Facebook

Facebook might be making significant investments in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies but there are times when specialist companies have done some of the vital work. Normally, giants like Facebook would simply purchase these smaller firms – like the recent acquisition of CTRL-Labs – but this can be a lengthy process. Today it has been revealed that Facebook and British microLED manufacturer Plessey have entered into an exclusive arrangement to help further Facebook’s AR plans.

Michael Abrash - AR Glasses

Plessey specialises in building microLED display solutions which it claims produce very high-brightness whilst consuming low amounts of power. There are a number of hurdles AR headset makers face and producing viable imagery is a decent form factor is a major component. Facebook has yet to reveal an AR product but has extensively discussed the technology at events like Oculus Connect.

Regarding the news, Plessey notes in a press release. “We have decided to work with Facebook to help achieve their vision of the next computing platform centred around people. Under a new commercial agreement, our LED manufacturing operations will be dedicated to helping Facebook prototype and develop new technologies for potential use in the AR/VR space.”

The deal will help stop rivals gaining access to Plessey’s technology. While the company has previously collaborated with Vuzix on its next generation of Vuzix AR smart glasses, Apple is the main rival Facebook is trying to beat. An article by The Information suggests Apple was recently looking to buy Plessey, citing two sources familiar with the matter. In any case, that’s not going to happen now.

“We are delighted to announce this new commercial agreement with Facebook,” said Dr Keith Strickland (Co-CEO/CTO) of Plessey in a statement. “Plessey has been at the forefront of micro-LED display development and this agreement recognises the significant advances in our capabilities that we have made in recent years and we very much look forward to working with Facebook to help bring their vision to life.”

Last year it was reported that Facebook had teamed up with Ray-Ban’s parent company Luxottica to help design a form factor that the general public would buy, not just tech enthusiasts. With the Facebook Developer Conference (F8) now cancelled and lockdowns in place across multiple countries, any AR news may be put on hold for a little while. For further updates to Facebook’s AR plans, keep reading VRFocus.