Sapphire beyond the smart watch

Some day in the not-so distant future, our way of interacting with the world around us will be vastly different. Technology that seems like science fiction today – such as glasses with heads-up displays and connected headbands – will be the norm for average people. Desktop computers will be technologically archaic and non-smartphones will simply no longer exist.

3D Display

But before we get too carried away, let’s rewind to the present.

The Apple Watch broke ground for the consumer wearable device segment this year after it was reported last week that over 4.2 million units have been shipped since April 2015. According to research firm Canalys, Apple has easily overtaken more established companies like Fitbit and Xiaomi in just three months.

But while the smartwatch market gradually gains momentum, the augmented reality and wearables industries overall still face many obstacles on the road to success, especially in the form of consumer devices.

Photonics Spectra recently noted three challenges these industries must overcome before wearables can achieve wider consumer interest and, ultimately, adoption.

1)      System cost

2)      Materials

3)      Practical use

With the development of a wearable device, comes the need for a screen material that can put up with the rigors posed by exposure to the environment. Specifically, these devices are generally in more vulnerable locations than a phone. Fortunately, sapphire is a solution that is becoming more obtainable due to new manufacturing techniques.

Although currently more expensive than glass, sapphire’s greater scratch resistance, strength and durability allows products to be thinner, which can be a plus in wearables considering consumers desire their devices to blend in as stylish fashion accessories.

In addition, sapphire manufacturers are continuing to innovate by developing new solutions for the next generation of wearables. One such solution, sapphire coated glass, will give companies the ability to develop screen covers that are not only strong, but can mold to curved devices. These coatings will be directly applied on top of glass and will provide similar durability as sapphire, at a lower cost.

Already prominently used on a variety of mobile and wearable devices, including the Apple Watch, sapphire will likely be used on the screens of many cutting edge gadgets. As production methods continue to improve, the futuristic applications for sapphire are limitless.

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