Apple announced Friday that it is providing US $ 410 million from its advanced manufacturing fund to little-known optical manufacturing company II-VI to build additional capacity and speed up delivery of future iPhone components.
The company, which has partnered with Apple since 2017, makes Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) that help power the Face ID, Memoji, Animoji, and Portrait selfies made possible by the True Depth camera system. . It also manufactures the laser used in the LiDAR scanner of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro. Apple says a capital injection will help create 700 jobs in the United States.
But the augmented reality capabilities of II-VI are far more intriguing than the iPhone 13’s ability to take better portraits or take brighter photos in low light. The LiDAR scanner that II-VI does measures distance to surrounding objects up to 5 meters, works both indoors and outdoors, and operates at the photon level at nanosecond speeds, but its capabilities are some. little wasted in the iPhone and iPad. There are very few AR apps, let alone people want to use, and the whole ARKit experience feels like a beta test for something bigger.
It could be the AR glasses that Apple has developed. The first time we see a pair of Apple glasses probably wouldn’t be until 2023 (and even that seems a bit too soon), so an investment in II-VI now makes sense. Maybe the company’s lasers will end up in a pair of glasses, maybe they won’t, but you can bet Apple is thinking beyond selfies and Animoji.
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