Apple reportedly considered buying Plessey, an augmented reality display maker

We’ve been hearing about Apple’s rumored augmented reality (AR) glasses for a long time now, and it sounds like Facebook may have jumped ahead of the company in one area.

According to a report on Monday fromĀ The Information, Facebook recently acquired a British company called Plessey, which is described as an AR display maker. The report indicates that Facebook has struck a deal with the company to buy all of its AR displays. It also states that Facebook’s plan is to build its own AR glasses, which will overlay virtual objects onto the real world.

The inclusion of Apple comes from the part of the story where the company was apparently considering buying Plessey itself, and for the same reason Facebook did. Plessey is only one of a few companies that specializes in making AR displays, and with Apple’s oft-rumored goal to make a pair of AR glasses (and/or a VR headset), this is an important step in the process. And yet Facebook apparently swooped in instead.

Instead, Plessey will license its technology to Facebook and dedicate its U.K.-based factory to supplying Facebook over several years, both companies confirmed. Facebook could have tried to buy Plessey to gain access to its AR displays, but that would likely have brought intense regulatory scrutiny. Striking an exclusive supply deal speeds up the work and gives Facebook the benefits of an acquisition without a lengthy regulatory review.

Facebook’s licensing deal with Plessey will see the social network build “a glasses form factor that lets devices melt away so we can be more present with our friends, families, and surroundings”.

Apple’s rumored AR glasses have popped up in the rumor mill on a semi-regular basis for quite some time. Back in November, for instance, it was reported that Apple’s AR headset could see the light of day in 2022, with the smaller AR glasses launching sometime in 2023. However, last week we reported that Apple’s AR glasses could launch in 2022, as suppliers have ramped up development.

If Apple is exploring companies to purchase, but Plessey is off the market, then we might hear relatively soon of another AR display maker being acquired soon enough.