Meta buys technology for better VR headsets
Meta continues its shopping spree, acquiring a startup that could help develop better VR lenses.
The startup, which specializes in optics, goes by the name Gary Sharp Innovations, Janko Roettgers reports in his tech newsletter Lowpass. The acquisition reportedly took place as early as June 2022.
Meta confirmed the acquisition in response to Roettgers’ inquiry, saying, “Gary Sharp Innovations is helping us develop better viewing optics for our AR and VR devices.”
The cost of the acquisition is unknown. GSI was a small, Colorado-based R&D startup founded in 2017.
Better lenses for VR and AR headsets
With the purchase, Meta takes on several patents and patent applications, as well as some of the document liability. Former employee Robert Fort reveals via LinkedIn that he now works as a virtual reality optics specialist at Meta. His profile shows that he started the job in June.
One of the patents now in Meta’s possession describes a pancake lens that minimizes scattered light through special optical layers. Meta’s premium Quest Pro headset (review) uses Meta-branded pancake lenses that were four years in development. The same lenses are likely to be used in subsequent VR headsets like Meta Quest 3 (report).
It is likely that, over the next few years, this type of lens replaces Fresnel lenses becoming the industry standard. Pancake lenses enable a narrower form factor and are characterized by enhanced image sharpness.
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Since the startup’s employees only joined Meta in the summer, it is unlikely that its technology is already in available products. However, the expertise is likely to benefit future products, such as those in the AR field. About half of all Meta’s investments go into the development of AR headsets. A first, non-commercial version could be presented in 2024.
The acquisition of Gary Sharp Innovations follows the acquisition of optics and display specialists Luxexcel, Imagine Optix, and Lemnis Technologies. Meta also secured exclusive rights to the AR displays of the manufacturer Plessey.
Other tech groups such as Google (Raxium) and Apple (Limbak) are also currently buying up VR and AR startups to secure upcoming key technologies. Some industry observers see this as an anti-competitive approach that excludes smaller companies from the market at an early stage.