Meta continues its shopping spree by acquiring a startup that could help develop better VR lenses.
The startup, specializing in optics, is called Gary Sharp Innovations, reports Janko Roettgers in his technical newsletter Lowpass. The acquisition would have taken 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 assumes several patents and patent applications, as well as part of the responsibility for the documents. Former employee Robert Fort reveals via LinkedIn that he now works as virtual reality optics specialist in Meta. His profile shows he went into labor in June.
One of the patents currently owned by Meta describes a pancake lentil which minimizes light scattered through special optical layers. Meta’s high-end Quest Pro helmet (test) uses Meta-branded pancake lenses that have been in development for four years. The same lenses are likely to be used in subsequent VR headsets like Meta Quest 3 (report).
It is likely that within the next few years this type of lens will replace Fresnel lenses and become the industry standard. Pancake lenses allow for a narrower form factor and feature improved image sharpness.
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Since the startup’s employees only joined Meta in the summer, its technology is unlikely to be in the available products yet. However, the expertise is likely to benefit future products, such as those in the field of AR. About half of all Meta’s investment goes 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 has also secured exclusive rights to AR displays from manufacturer Plessey.
Other technology 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 shuts small businesses out of the market at an early stage.