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Apple, LG Throwing Big Bucks To OLED Microdisplay Company For AR and VR Headsets

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Major tech companies have invested in a small company in New York that makes OLED microdisplays. Apple, LG, and Valve have put in $10 million to eMagin for possible AR and VR headsets.   ( Jack Taylor | Getty Images )

It appears some major companies including Apple, LG, and Valve are investing money to a small firm that produces OLED microdisplays for augmented and virtual reality glasses.

The aforementioned tech companies are making a $10 million investment in eMagin, per documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. eMagin, based in Hopewell Junction, New York, creates microdisplays used by military, medical, and industrial fields, but has recently garnered some traction from companies with big plans for AR and VR.

Major Tech Companies Invest In Small Microdisplay Company

According to the filing, eMagin entered into agreements with “Tier One” companies “for the design and development of microdisplays for consumer head mounted devices” and negotiated with manufacturers for possible mass production. Of what, exactly? Well, these could include VR and AR headsets, including one Apple is reportedly developing at present with a possible 2019 release date. Analyst Gene Munster claims that this product will be bigger than the iPhone.

As for LG and Valve, both those companies are currently collaborating on a head-mounted VR headset. To note, Valve already has its own VR headset in the form of the HTC Vive, though expanding its VR portfolio seems like a good move, too.

eMagin’s current flagship product is a display that offers a resolution of 2,048 x 2,048. Resolution is one of, if not the biggest aspect of AR and VR headsets, since higher-resolution displays are able to give more immersive experiences. Lower-resolution ones, on the other hand, are prone to the “screen door” effect, in which the gaps between pixels are visible.

Virtual Reality And Augmented Reality

In exchange for $10 million, Apple, LG, and Valve received a total of 6,451,613 shares of eMagin stock. The investment signals these companies’ commitment to AR and VR development, which, despite massive inroads in terms of technology, still hasn’t blown up significantly because of a number of factors, high costs being the most notable barrier.

But Apple is committed to changing that, and CEO Tim Cook is particularly thrilled about the whole thing, especially with AR.

“There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality — both of these are incredibly interesting,” said Cook in 2016. “But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far.”

Most recently, Apple released ARKit 1.5 to developers, which includes added tools for them to play with, such as the ability to project content onto vertical surfaces instead of just horizontal ones. New AR features will come as part of the upcoming iOS 11.3 update.

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