Apple just made a huge bet on its Apple Glass future

Apple Glass concept
(Image credit: idropnews/Martin Hajek)

If you're excited for Apple Glass, then good news: Apple's just poured a bunch of money into a company that's likely going to contribute to the smart glasses' development.

Texas-based optical technology manufacturer II-VI is getting a $410 million investment from Apple. Although the Apple's announcement doesn't detail what will be produced as a result of the investment, the money is being used to significantly expand a company that has the know how to help with augmented reality projects.

You probably don't know who II-VI are, but you'll know its work. Its vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) are responsible for Apple's Face ID and LiDAR sensors. These in turn help run features like Memoji, Animoji, selfie portrait mode and low-light autofocus, and perhaps most relevantly, AR apps.

This isn't Apple's first investment in the company either, as it gave Finisar, which is now part of II-VI, $390 million in 2017. Both payments were made via Apple's Advanced Manufacturing Fund, the same fund that helped bankroll a partnership with glassmaker Corning to create the Ceramic Shield displays found on the iPhone 12 series.

Augmented reality is still an immature technology, but manufacturers, including Apple, are spending huge amounts on research into it. Rumors of Apple's Apple Glass and its mixed reality headset have been swirling for some time, although both are still a year or two off appearing for real. Investing in a company that specializes in 3D sensors for mobile devices seems like an important step in continuing the development of these and future AR/VR products.

Apple Glass is expected to be a new kind of accessory for your iPhone, putting information from your device in front of your eyes, and letting you interact with gestures. However, the mixed reality headset is believed to be aimed at a more professional crowd, and will help developers create apps that the average customer can then make use of with the more user-friendly AR glasses.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.