Apple Working on New Display Ideas in Secret Taiwan Lab

The lab has at least 50 engineers who are experimenting with new kinds of displays for Apple iPhones and iPads, according to a report.

Apple, iPhones, iPads, displays, screens, Samsung, LG, display technologies

Apple has a team of engineers working on new technologies for display production in a secret laboratory that was recently opened this year in Taiwan, with the aim of building some of its own displays in the future.

The secret lab was revealed in a Dec. 14 story by Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources who have direct information about the facility.

"The Apple building in Longtan has at least 50 engineers and other workers creating new screens for devices including iPhones and iPads, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details aren't public," the story reported. "Apple has recruited from local display maker AU Optronics Corp. and Qualcomm Inc., which used to own the building, the people said."

Key goals for the facility include finding new display technologies that can make the company's iPads, iPhones and other products thinner, lighter, brighter and more energy-efficient, the story reported. "Engineers are developing more-advanced versions of the liquid-crystal displays currently used in iPhones, iPads and Mac personal computers, the people said. Apple also is keen to move to organic light-emitting diodes, which are even thinner and don't require a backlight, they said."

If Apple can create more of its own display designs and innovations, it could ultimately have to buy fewer displays from other companies, such as competitors Samsung and LG, for use in its own products. The company could then have its own display designs built by smaller manufacturers, which could be a competitive advantage.

Apple's secret display lab activities mirror other expansion opportunities that the company has taken in 2015, including a host of acquisitions.

In November, Apple confirmed that it had acquired motion-capture technology startup Faceshift, which builds applications that capture human facial expressions as animated avatars or characters, earlier in the year. The company's technology was used in the making of earlier Star Wars movies. In addition, Faceshift has worked with Intel and Pepsi on previous marketing campaigns that used the company's motion-capture technology. The terms and price of the deal were not announced.

In October, Apple bought Perceptio, an artificial intelligence startup that works on ideas that could be integrated into future iPhones. Perceptio's technology helps smartphone owners more easily organize and store photos on their iPhones, making them easier to find and use. The price of the acquisition and terms of the deal were not announced.

In September, Apple reportedly acquired Mapsense, a mapping visualization startup, for $25 million to $30 million to bolster its mapping assets as it continues to develop better map tools in iOS 9 and other Apple products, according to an earlier eWEEK story. Mapsense works to help customers create data-driven maps for a wide range of business uses, while also offering mapping visualization tools and services to developers and enterprises. Apple has been struggling with mobile mapping services the last several years, especially compared with Google Maps and its offerings.

In May, Apple acquired Coherent Navigation, a Silicon Valley startup that has been using the Iridium satellite network to develop a commercial, high-precision navigation service for a wide range of industries. The price of that deal was not revealed.

In April, Apple paid about $20 million to acquire LinX Computational Imaging, an Israel-based company that focuses on designing and selling tiny cameras for use in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, according to an earlier eWEEK report. According to its Website, LinX "brings revolution to mobile photography" on smartphones, tablets and Ultrabooks through multi-aperture imaging technology. LinX combines innovative image processing and advanced sensor and optics technology to create cameras that offer improved image quality, better low-light performance, improved color fidelity and less shutter lag than competing technologies, according to the company.

In March, Apple acquired the startup behind the Foundation DB database in a move that could be aimed at helping Apple continue to improve and support its own services to its own customers. The companies did not announce financial terms of the acquisition. FoundationDB is a high-performance database that provides NoSQL and SQL capabilities for users. Such databases have become more popular in recent years compared with traditional relational database management systems because they better serve the emerging generation of interactive applications, according to an earlier eWEEK report.