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The Largest LED Manufacturer in Taiwan puts his money on Apple using Micro-LED in a Future AR/VR Headset



In February 2016 Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple could use a Micro-LED Display for a Future VR Headset." Venture Capitalist John Doer of KPCB once described LuxVue's Micro-LED technology as being a "technical breakthrough in displays." In addition, an EETimes report at the time claimed that Micro-LED could be used for "direct projection displays" that would include Augmented and Virtual Reality applications like a headset. Then in June of this year a Nikkei report claimed that "Apple is planning to adopt advanced micro-LED display technology in its wearable devices, industry sources say, with one suggesting that could happen as soon as 2018." Starting with a smaller display for Apple Watch would make sense before moving on to a mixed reality headset, but the sequence of its debut is of little importance at this point in time.


A new report published today in Taiwan notes that while development of Micro LED technology is fraught with uncertainties, many firms engaged in the development believe that they will eventually succeed. Epistar, the largest Taiwan-based LED epitaxial wafer and chip maker, could see Micro LED start contributing revenues at the end of 2018 at the earliest, company president Jou Ming-jiunn revealed during a recent interview.


During the interview Epistar was asked about Apple and its Micro-LED position. "Although Apple has taken the initiative to develop Micro LED technology, the technology is thought to have bottlenecks in production. What is its outlook?


Epistar's President said that "There are many uncertainties about Micro LED, and not even its standards have been set. Epistar defines Mini LED as LED chips of about 100 microns in size and Micro LED as chips of 20-30 microns. Sony has used Micro LED technology to produce CLEDIS (crystal LED integrated structure) fine pixel pitch displays, but in fact, it is unnecessary to use Micro LED in such displays.


Mass transfer is a key bottleneck for Micro LED volume production, for it is difficult to quickly and precisely transfer many thousands of chips at one time. US-based LuxVue Technology acquired by Apple has been doing R&D for mass transfer.


When Micro LED commercial applications will emerge hinges on the progress in the technology development. There are two trends of application of Micro LED: one for VR/AR devices first, and then smart wearable devices and smartphones; the other is seeing Samsung Electronics and other Asia-based vendors planning to initially apply Micro LED to large-size displays such as TVs.


It is important that development of Micro LED technology should consider, based on market demand, what the technology will be applied to. If Micro LED can take off, LED industry will significantly benefit from it."


Jou Ming-jiunn went on to say that it remains difficult to say exactly when Micro LED will start contributing revenues. The most optimistic estimation is at the end of 2018, and end-market devices will not appear at least until 2019.


Apple will be introducing the capability of running Augmented Reality content on their next-gen iPhones beginning next month. Both Apple's CEO and SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi have recently stated that Apple will have the largest AR platform in the world the minute that they introduce it on iDevices this fall.


It would make sense therefore for Apple to advance mixed reality content on a super advanced headset display using Micro-LED to make the experience superior to anything on the market. Of course in business what supposedly makes sense doesn't always pan out.


For now one of the leaders in LED technology today puts his money on Apple using Micro-LED for a headset and that's supported by other reports that have surfaced over the past 18 months. The trend seems to confirm that this is the leading application for Apple's LuxVue technology with the Apple Watch being a close second.


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