Google Glass is still not dead. So it seems. The search giant Google has just reportedly spent a billion on a company that develops tiny light-emitting diodes for displays used in augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) devices. According to a report in The Information, Google has signed a deal to buy the five-year-old startup Raxium. As per the report, the acquisition signals that Google wants to own more of the physical components needed to develop such devices.
The report further adds that though the terms of the deal are not known, Google is likely spending $1 billion on Raxium. “Raxium is on the cutting edge of bringing monolithic integration, the foundation underpinning Moore’s Law, to MicroLEDs, enabling a new class of smaller and more powerful display products, ranging from augmented and virtual reality micro-displays to life-size panel-based light field arrays,” says the description on the company’s page.
Google Glass first launched in 2013 to a select buyers. The company announced a wider release in 2014. The price tag of $1500 and fears of privacy invasion resulted in failure of the product. Google ceased all work on the Glass project in 2015. In 2017, Google resumed work on enterprise edition of the glass and it is called Glass.
What is microLED
microLED is similar to OLED as it doesn’t use a backlight, instead each pixel emits its own light. The only difference here is that, unlike OLED displays, microLED displays use inorganic materials, which also brings in the advantages of ultra-low black levels, but with higher peak brightness. Most mainstream LED panels are actually LCD panels with LED-based back or edge lighting. MicroLED panels don’t need separate backlighting which means blacks are darker and whites are brighter without the light bleed that is usually linked with most LED-backlit TVs.
Making microLEDs tiny enough for head-worn devices has been a challenge. This is where Raxium seems to come in. The company claims that its has achieved pixels as small as 3.5 µm, much smaller than a typical OLED pixel.
What are rivals Apple, Microsoft and Facebook doing
Google’s Raxium buy follows similar acquisitions and business deals made by its rivals Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Snap for the same type of technology to develop AR glasses or headsets. Apple has been betting big on AR technology for years now. Apple Glass is even claimed to be the next big product from the company. Microsoft has the HoloLens 2, an enterprise-focussed mixed reality (MR) headset that is priced at $3,500. Facebook, now called Meta, has Oculus Quest 2, a consumer-oriented VR headset that starts at $300. It’s now called Meta Quest VR headset.