This week, Google announced the acquisition of Raxium, a company that works with microLED display technology in both virtual and augmented reality headsets.
In a blog post announcing the purchase, senior vice president Rick Osterloh said that Raxium’s expertise will play a key role as Google continues to invest in hardware efforts. But what can we expect from this acquisition?
Let’s explore what we know about Google’s augmented reality strategy and how Raxium will fit in.
Who Is Raxium?
Since starting five years ago, this Bay Area start-up has worked to create miniaturised high-resolution displays that are both energy-efficient and cost-effective.
Raxium’s leadership team has a considerable amount of experience in micro-optics, system integration, and monolithic integration.
How Much Did Google Pay?
Google is yet to spill the beans on how much was spent on this acquisition; however, reports in The Information suggest that the price tag could have been around the $1 billion mark. Raxium will join Google in the Devices and Services team where the firm’s consumer technology is developed.
Originally reported by The Information back in March, the deal wasn’t confirmed by Google until the start of May.
This isn’t the first AR company that Google has bought. Back in 2020, Canadian augmented reality glasses company North was purchased, again for an undisclosed sum. The North deal was reported to cost Google in the neighbourhood of $180 million. North’s speciality is creating smart glasses that are both prescription-compatible and stylish.
What Is Google Developing?
In addition to the acquisition of Raxium and North, Google has also been setting up its own Augmented Reality OS team with the aim of developing software for an as-yet, officially unannounced AR device.
It’s said that the project is being run by the vice president of Labs, Clay Bavor who also works on Project Starline; a virtual reality chat booth that puts the person you’re talking to right in front of you.
A few months ago, Google also hired Bernard Kress who had previously worked as a principal optical architect on Microsoft’s Hololens team. Kress now works at Google Labs in the role of Director of XR Engineering, a division which was set up last year.
It seems apparent that Google almost certainly has plans to release XR headsets that will compete with those developed by Meta, Snap, Apple, and Microsoft within the near future.
Rumour has it that Google Labs is working towards Project Iris, an AR headset which is due for release in 2024. The standalone device is believed to have an outward-facing camera which will offer similar world-sensing abilities to those found on the Magic Leap and HoloLens headsets.
What Will Raxium Bring to Google?
With their speciality in reducing the size and costs of the display, it’s likely that Raxium will help streamline the devices that Google is developing.
Super AMOLEDs used in most smartphones are typically around 50 µm per pixel. Raxium has been able to reduce its microdisplays using µLED that measure just 3.5 µm per pixel. This makes Raxium’s displays five times more efficient than its nearest competitor.