TSMC developing micro OLED displays for 'Apple Glass'

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2021
Apple partner supplier TSMC is reportedly developing advanced micro OLED display technology for use in a rumored "Apple Glass" AR headset, though the hardware is unlikely to see integration in the near future.

Apple Glass


Citing sources familar with Apple's plans, Nikkei on Wednesday reported that the in-house display initiative is in the trial production phase, meaning mass manufacturing for consumer products is several years out.

Unlike traditional LED panels and OLED modules used in current portable electronics, micro OLED technology promises high-resolution, high-efficiency performance in a compact package. The displays are built directly onto wafers, not glass substrates, making the overall system significantly thinner and smaller than conventional displays. As such, the technology lends itself nicely to wearable augmented reality devices, sources said.

"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," a source said. "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."

The panels in testing are under an inch in size, suggesting incorporation in a waveguide system. Waveguides are commonly used in AR glasses as a means of routing graphical information from an output source (miniature display) to one or more display planes positioned in front of a user's eyes.

TSMC is perhaps best known for its role in fabricating Apple chips like the A-series that powers iPhone and iPad, and Mac's new M1 silicon.

Research and development is being carried out at TSMC facilities in Taiwan. Apple reportedly hired "dozens" of engineers from Taiwanese display firm AU Optoelectronics, as well as industry experts from Japan and other countries, to work on the project. Like all major Apple initiatives, the process is highly secretive and team members were required to sign non-disclosure agreements forbidding them from discussing the venture or meeting with acquaintances who work in the tech industry, a source said.

Apple is widely rumored to debut an AR headset in the coming years. Recent rumors suggest the company will wade into the segment with a high-end VR visor in 2022 before unveiling an "Apple Glass" device in 2023.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    byronlbyronl Posts: 246member
    i wonder if this is related to their acquisition of akonia holographics. maybe many different teams are working on ar glasses displays around the world and apple will decide which one to use? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 11
    I sure hope Apple does not screw these guys over. They are at the top of the food chain when it comes to chip making.
    byronl
  • Reply 3 of 11
    thttht Posts: 4,493member
    I'm hoping this is more like AR on the iPhones and iPads, but wrought more immersive with it in the form of glasses. The ultimate application for me is it to be good enough to project or show a virtual display, virtual keyboard & trackpad, etc. The uber maps and navigation tool would be cool, but virtual computer display that is as sharp as a regular display? Insanely great.

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
  • Reply 4 of 11
    tht said:

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
    Huh? The image has to come from somewhere, and microLED is the most compact and dense display that can be used for this. If you don’t know how the the tech works, just do an image search for dozens of examples. The display is like a small projector off to the side that feeds the image into the waveguides in the lens, which then reflects the image back into the eye. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 11
    byronlbyronl Posts: 246member
    tht said:

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
    Huh? The image has to come from somewhere, and microLED is the most compact and dense display that can be used for this. If you don’t know how the the tech works, just do an image search for dozens of examples. The display is like a small projector off to the side that feeds the image into the waveguides in the lens, which then reflects the image back into the eye. 
    how is it not blurry since it’s so close to our eyes?
  • Reply 6 of 11
    byronl said:
    tht said:

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
    Huh? The image has to come from somewhere, and microLED is the most compact and dense display that can be used for this. If you don’t know how the the tech works, just do an image search for dozens of examples. The display is like a small projector off to the side that feeds the image into the waveguides in the lens, which then reflects the image back into the eye. 
    how is it not blurry since it’s so close to our eyes?
    Focussing elements (really small lenses basically) integrated within the waveguide and associated optics can create a "virtual image" that appears in focus some distance ahead of you. There are things called "holographic optical elements" that are essentially microstructures that can be used to manipulate light, so perhaps they will be used in whatever Apple comes up with. That could be why holographic technology companies may be involved. (Note that the virtual image I describe here is not a hologram per se--what you see is more like a "reflection" of a tiny display screen -- such as a microLED).

    edit to add: Maybe it is the picture used in this article that is misleading you. The picture makes it appear that the AR images occur focussed on the surface of the glass. That's not the way it would work, although I suppose it might be possible for AR images to appear like that if the glasses are held a distance away (where the virtual distance aligns with the actual distance of the glasses), and the optics were adjusted accordingly. The optics that are adjusted to focus the AR image when you are wearing the glasses would likely make the image blurry when you hold the glasses away.
    edited February 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 11
    thttht Posts: 4,493member
    tht said:

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
    Huh? The image has to come from somewhere, and microLED is the most compact and dense display that can be used for this. If you don’t know how the the tech works, just do an image search for dozens of examples. The display is like a small projector off to the side that feeds the image into the waveguides in the lens, which then reflects the image back into the eye. 
    AI doesn't have to use that image however. Something like this is a lot more helpful to me, where the microLED displays is where you are describing it. 1" displays sound pretty big though.




    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 11
    byronl said:
    tht said:

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
    Huh? The image has to come from somewhere, and microLED is the most compact and dense display that can be used for this. If you don’t know how the the tech works, just do an image search for dozens of examples. The display is like a small projector off to the side that feeds the image into the waveguides in the lens, which then reflects the image back into the eye. 
    how is it not blurry since it’s so close to our eyes?
    Focussing elements (really small lenses basically) integrated within the waveguide and associated optics can create a "virtual image" that appears in focus some distance ahead of you. There are things called "holographic optical elements" that are essentially microstructures that can be used to manipulate light, so perhaps they will be used in whatever Apple comes up with. That could be why holographic technology companies may be involved. (Note that the virtual image I describe here is not a hologram per se--what you see is more like a "reflection" of a tiny display screen -- such as a microLED).

    edit to add: Maybe it is the picture used in this article that is misleading you. The picture makes it appear that the AR images occur focussed on the surface of the glass. That's not the way it would work, although I suppose it might be possible for AR images to appear like that if the glasses are held a distance away (where the virtual distance aligns with the actual distance of the glasses), and the optics were adjusted accordingly. The optics that are adjusted to focus the AR image when you are wearing the glasses would likely make the image blurry when you hold the glasses away.
    Yes, this. You don't focus on the lens, you focus on the real world in front of you, say 10 feet ahead,  and the waveguides focus the AR image on your retina in a way that depth of field etc matches up with real world imagery etc. In no way are you trying to focus on something an inch away. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 11

    tht said:
    tht said:

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
    Huh? The image has to come from somewhere, and microLED is the most compact and dense display that can be used for this. If you don’t know how the the tech works, just do an image search for dozens of examples. The display is like a small projector off to the side that feeds the image into the waveguides in the lens, which then reflects the image back into the eye. 
    AI doesn't have to use that image however. Something like this is a lot more helpful to me, where the microLED displays is where you are describing it. 1" displays sound pretty big though.

    I mean, if this was an article explaining how AR and waveguides work, then yeah. Here's another that helps visualize it a bit:




    I'm not sure the 1" displays in question are for the AR glasses, sounds more like they'd be for the VR-type device with displays sitting in front of the eye and enlarged via the lenses. The glasses would have tiny displays that sit off to the side.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 11
    byronlbyronl Posts: 246member
    byronl said:
    tht said:

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
    Huh? The image has to come from somewhere, and microLED is the most compact and dense display that can be used for this. If you don’t know how the the tech works, just do an image search for dozens of examples. The display is like a small projector off to the side that feeds the image into the waveguides in the lens, which then reflects the image back into the eye. 
    how is it not blurry since it’s so close to our eyes?
    Focussing elements (really small lenses basically) integrated within the waveguide and associated optics can create a "virtual image" that appears in focus some distance ahead of you. There are things called "holographic optical elements" that are essentially microstructures that can be used to manipulate light, so perhaps they will be used in whatever Apple comes up with. That could be why holographic technology companies may be involved. (Note that the virtual image I describe here is not a hologram per se--what you see is more like a "reflection" of a tiny display screen -- such as a microLED).

    edit to add: Maybe it is the picture used in this article that is misleading you. The picture makes it appear that the AR images occur focussed on the surface of the glass. That's not the way it would work, although I suppose it might be possible for AR images to appear like that if the glasses are held a distance away (where the virtual distance aligns with the actual distance of the glasses), and the optics were adjusted accordingly. The optics that are adjusted to focus the AR image when you are wearing the glasses would likely make the image blurry when you hold the glasses away.
    nice explanation, thanks!
    so, focusing elements and holographic optical elements are two different techniques to have this effect?
    edited February 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 11
    byronl said:
    byronl said:
    tht said:

    Not sure how these microLED displays play into AR glasses. The concept picture looks stupid.
    Huh? The image has to come from somewhere, and microLED is the most compact and dense display that can be used for this. If you don’t know how the the tech works, just do an image search for dozens of examples. The display is like a small projector off to the side that feeds the image into the waveguides in the lens, which then reflects the image back into the eye. 
    how is it not blurry since it’s so close to our eyes?
    Focussing elements (really small lenses basically) integrated within the waveguide and associated optics can create a "virtual image" that appears in focus some distance ahead of you. There are things called "holographic optical elements" that are essentially microstructures that can be used to manipulate light, so perhaps they will be used in whatever Apple comes up with. That could be why holographic technology companies may be involved. (Note that the virtual image I describe here is not a hologram per se--what you see is more like a "reflection" of a tiny display screen -- such as a microLED).

    edit to add: Maybe it is the picture used in this article that is misleading you. The picture makes it appear that the AR images occur focussed on the surface of the glass. That's not the way it would work, although I suppose it might be possible for AR images to appear like that if the glasses are held a distance away (where the virtual distance aligns with the actual distance of the glasses), and the optics were adjusted accordingly. The optics that are adjusted to focus the AR image when you are wearing the glasses would likely make the image blurry when you hold the glasses away.
    nice explanation, thanks!
    so, focusing elements and holographic optical elements are two different techniques to have this effect?
    The focusing elements (and the optical waveguide) could possibly be holographic optical elements, so not necessarily different techniques. There are other things like micro lens arrays, multi-layer optical coatings, filters and other techniques that may be incorporated too. The drawings in Tht's post #7 and Fastasleep's post #9 allude to this.  Obviously it can get quite complicated. I was a laser technician for many years so I am familiar with optics, holography, and the basic physics involved, but I don't claim to be an expert on these things. I just know enough to follow along.
    watto_cobra
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