The concept of the metaverse is not new. But it certainly has shot into public awareness recently, with Facebook renaming itself as Meta last October. So why shouldn’t the LED industry hitch itself to the ride?
That’s what is happening at ams Osram, where CEO Alexander Everke is counting on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) — they’re at the core of the metaverse — as a growth market for the company’s LEDs.
“We see very good traction in AR/VR, where major players are working on future devices to address metaverse applications,” Everke told analysts on a web call to discuss fourth-quarter and year-end financial results earlier this month. “Our technology portfolio is geared to support visualization, as well as sensing applications in this field.”
For a quick refresher, Meta — the company previously known as Facebook — is investing heavily in AR and VR in a concerted push into the metaverse, a term taken from a 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash in which people share virtual realms through multiple devices. In Meta’s vision, users will increasingly rely on AR and VR technologies — VR glasses, for instance — to live in a shared virtual 3D world which will have the prominence that Facebook’s conventional social media business has today. As just one of many activities underway, Meta has rebranded its Oculus VR glasses as Meta.
Everke is clearly counting on solid growth in this market, which ams Osram will supply with LEDs as well as with sensors and laser chips.
Infrared LEDs, for instance, will support eye tracking in AR and VR to determine the direction in which a person is looking, an ams Osram spokesperson told LEDs Magazine.
In fact, metaverse hardware could potentially include a cornucopia of light emitters.
“Visible RGB LEDs also play a role in AR glasses and headsets,” the spokesperson noted. “In smart glasses, information or images can be overlaid onto the real scene by using LED projection.”
The company’s pursuit of AR/VR applications for LEDs goes back several years, when Osram — prior to its acquisition by Premstaetten, Austria–based ams — had identified it as one of several newfangled areas for LEDs. Former Osram CEO Olaf Berlien emphasized its importance at the opening of the company’s Kulim, Malaysia LED plant in 2017.
It now appears to be taking on greater importance, especially with Meta elevating the idea.
“We actually already have a small business in this area,” Everke told JP Morgan analyst Sandeep Deshpande, who asked when the metaverse business might show significant revenue. “It’s less depending on our design win activity; it’s more depending on the growth of metaverse and therefore the applications like AR/VR glasses. I think a realistic timeframe to see significant ramp there is a matter of roughly 18 months to 24 months.”
Everke described the potential as “quite promising” and “very encouraging.”
The AR/VR ramp fits well with ams Osram’s ongoing de-emphasis of illumination as it shapes itself into a company focused on optical chips and sensors. Since the Osram acquisition, the company has divested several illumination and IoT lighting operations. In an exception, it still owns architectural and façade lighting group Traxon Technologies.
On the same call, Everke also pointed to LED growth potential in horticulture and in UV-C disinfection, while providing an update on microLEDs. LEDs will report on these in a separate article.
MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).
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