It’s come to light that Lemnis Technologies, a startup creating varifocal optics for use in VR headsets, has reportedly been absorbed by Facebook in an ‘acqui-hiring’ move.

Lemnis co-founder and CEO Pierre-Yves Laffont released a blog post in mid-August stating that the company would be “embarking on a new adventure,” however at time it was unclear what that would mean for the Singapore-based startup.

As reported by Chinese AR/VR publication YivianLaffont recently updated his LinkenIn profile to indicate that he’s been working full-time for Facebook since February 2020, with his most recent posting at Facebook Reality Labs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Image captured by Road to VR

“Moving forward, we are excited to continue tackling phenomenal technical challenges building the next computing platforms, with an even greater impact at an unprecedented scale,” Laffont said in the blog post. “We hope you will find the next chapter from the Lemnis Technologies team to be as interesting and meaningful as we do!”

Of the company’s nine employees, only Laffont has updated his LinkedIn profile to indicate the move to Facebook. Others, including the company’s VP of Operations Pierre-Yves Guillemet and Senior Mechanical Engineer Shukri Abdul Jalil, have since moved on from the company entirely, which could indicate that only Lemnis’ IP and its core talent (read: Laffont) were absorbed, but no other staff members.

Neither Facebook nor Lemnis have publicly acknowledged an acquisition or details pertaining to one. We’ve reached out to Laffont to provide further clarification on the specifics.

Project Aria is Facebook's Prototype AR Glasses Which Start Real-world Testing This Month

Solving a VR Problem

Starting in 2016 and later incorporated in 2017 in Singapore, the company set out to solve a problem that’s plagued VR since its inception: the vergence-accommodation conflict.

If you’re already well versed in the vergence-accommodation conflict, keep reading. We’ve summarized what’s at stake with varifocal displays at the bottom of the article.

Suffice it to say that future VR headsets will likely incorporate some form of varifocal technology (and requisite eye-tracking) in effort to solve this and therefore make VR more realistic and comfortable for long-term use. Facebook has been working on this issue since at least 2018 when the company unveiled its own varifocal prototype headset at Facebook’s annual developer conference.

Lemnis Technologies latest ‘Verifocal’ XR headset, Image courtesy Lemnis Technologies

Lemnis Technologies first publicly demonstrated its ‘Verifocal’ prototype in 2018, which is based on an optic following an Alvarez lens design. This combines two adjustable lenses that shift according to the eye’s gaze in order to serve up a wide range of focal planes. This differs from what we’ve seen from Facebook’s varifocal prototype, which features adjustable displays to simulate depth of field. Both varifocal technologies use eye-tracking to accomplish this.

The company’s Verifocal platform, then officially unveiled at SIGGRAPH 2019, was meant to more easily upgrade existing commercial headsets with varifocal optics, eye-tracking, and mixed reality-capable camera sensors. It’s clear the company’s specialization will be put to good use in Facebook’s AR/VR skunkworks.

If you missed that primer on the vergence-accomodation conflict, keep reading below:

Vergence-Accommodation Conflict

Outside of a headset, the muscles in your eye automatically change the shape of their lens to bend the light to your retina so it appears in focus. Simultaneously, both eyes converge on whatever real-world object you’re focusing on to create a single picture in your brain.

Images courtesy Pearson Scott Foresman, Fred Hsu

In short, the vergence-accommodation conflict is a physical phenomenon that occurs when the headset’s display presents light at a static distance from your eye, making your eyes strain to resolve whatever virtual object you happen to be looking at.

In a headset with a fixed-focus display or optics, you’re basically left with an uncomfortable mismatch that goes against ingrained muscle memory developed over the course of your entire life; you see an object rendered a few feet away, your eyes converge on the object, but your eye’s lenses never change shape since the light is always coming from a static source. You can read more about vergence-accommodation conflict and more eye-tracking related stuff in our extensive editorial on why eye-tracking is a game changer for VR.


This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.

  • Interesting hire, hope they can help facebook get a better AR solution in the next quest

  • Thats Quest 3 stuff right there: eye-tracking and verifical displays.
    Plus better (hires) tracking cameras, like JC wished for a better AR experience.
    We are getting therre folks… ;-)

    • Jistuce

      Only if Facebook reverses course. The Quest 2 is LESS advanced than the Quest in some respects(single display with limited eye spacing adjustment), exactly the same in others(sound), and the big improvement(better, more responsive controls!) takes us… back to the original Rift?

      It looks to me like Facebook is trying to get it as cheap as possible, and shaving away everything that isn’t processor and RAM(which at this point, it is cheaper to update than to not update) to reach those aggressive cost targets.

      Which, ADMITTEDLY, is better than HTC’s “we only sell to businesses” tactic, or Valve’s “We only offer one rig, and it costs a thousand dollars” approach. But… it also isn’t the march to the future that we want.

      I’d love to be wrong, but…
      My impression at this point is that Facebook is buying these companies up to deny resources to the competition, not because they intend to use them. They leak their prototype headsets using more advanced technology to convince us they’re moving the state of the art forward and keep themselves in the VR news between releases, but never intend to ship a single one of these advanced technologies.

      • silvaring

        If they can prevent their competitors from harvesting data, they will try block off the market, because for them its not even about collecting licensing royalties it’s about having exclusive access to the gaze-eye-hand data streams. Palmer has no idea just how much he sold out… to think what direction Faceborg are taking VR, it’s disgraceful. Of course as they say hindsight is 20-20 right?

      • “to convince us they’re moving the state of the art forward and keep themselves in the VR news between releases, but never intend to ship”

        I really don’t think so. Of course facebook is buying patents but they also kept Laffont for their “Reality Labs”. And speaking of which: without the work of their Reality Lab, they wouldn’t have Hand Tracking with their camerasetup of the Quest, which cant even capture depth information but bruteforce it with AI training.

        And lets not forget that facebook is planning their own Operating System, which makes total sense because Zuck wants to gather as much data as possible from every single user.

        But coming back to your lowcost argument: Zuck wants to have as many users possible in his VR world – and gets them with cheap but impressive VR. Why should he leave the highend market to the other big players like Sony or Valve? Facebook could instead put out a relatively lowcost but highend VR headset in 2-3 years and still be the biggest player with their entry lowcost Quest line…

        • Snekertechie

          I think facebooks absolute priority is getting the price of a ‘good enough’ vr set down to aid mass adoption. What they did so far is indeed impressive, but the high end market is not what they are after. They will probably keep improving the headsets, but within the price constraint. Offering only one type of headset helps lower the price. The only hope I have to see them compete in the high end eventually is economies of scale. Still I’m tempted to get a quest 2 (next to my Vive) because of the flexibility that standalone vr brings.

      • silvaring

        I totally agree. Zuckerberg and his partners want to do exactly what they did with Facebook, keep things as simple as possible, innovate very little, and buy out any perceived competitive threats (whatsapp, Instagram etc) that come along. Basically he will dumb VR down and stunt its growth for a decade if it means his company will maintain its userbase or stay on top of the VR market.

        That’s the really disgusting thing about all this. Palmer Luckey was either stupid or a straight up liar when he spoke about how Facebook would be a great thing for VR in the future, and I’m actually ashamed for believing him at the time honestly. Facebook is actually an anti-competitive data mining operating masquerading as a VR company, and their vision of ‘connecting people’ is nothing more than a smokescreen for this data mining operation.

        • jimmy

          that an impressive amount of bullshit in two paragraphs congratsluation valve simp

      • dsadas

        lol… you must be retarded…. quest 2 is way more advanced than that
        piece of crap called quest 1. MUCH higher resolution. RGB, better
        colors and brightness(watch the through the lenses vidoes), 90hz, 50% more RAM,Twice as powerful CPU and GPU with 11x A.I performance and 4x pixel throughput, 6x native resolution per eye, much better controllers( extra sensor for tracking your thumb),better haptic feedback, extra place to rest your thumb. Much smaller, lighter headset with MUCH better head strap and comfort at $350 instead of $400. Haha, it seems you either are a retard with bought quest 1 one,or just a retard that hates on facebook.

        • Jistuce

          It seems like your reading comprehension is quite limited, as you couldn’t comprehend most of what I said and have just forced me to restate it.
          It is disappointing that you feel the need to resort to verbal epithets to disguise your own inadequacies, as there is no shame in illiteracy.

          The higher resolution, processing power, and RAM are all things FACEBOOK HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH. They don’t make displays, SoCs, or DRAM. As I said, it is this point probably cheaper to upgrade the processor and RAM than to keep using the old ones. Older parts are often more expensive than their newer and more capable replacements.

          The single LCD is CERTAINLY cheaper than the duel OLEDs of Quest 1. It’s a single off-the-shelf cellphone part instead of a pair of more niche displays. And they shed a bunch of mechanical parts by moving to a single fixed display instead of dual adjustable displays, lowering costs even more. Who cares about the ergonomics and usability sacrifices involved?

          And the controller is… An original Rift controller with Quest LEDs attached to it. That’s not innovation, that is dusting off something old because it still works better than anything they have made since the actual innovators left the company.

          And, well, they aren’t wrong. The Rift controllers were FAR better than the Quest controllers in pretty much every way, and bringing them back is the smartest thing Facebook’s done. But it is a controller from 2017, and a company truly dedicated to innovating and moving the state of the art forward should have something better by now.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Wonder why fluid lenses aren’t looked at (I know a long time ago philips was developing lenses based on fluids and used electronic signals for adjustments. Might be lighter than multiple lenses.

    • Rogue Transfer

      Fluids wobble with movement and dry up over time, changing the fluid lens properties.

  • Rogue Transfer

    Worth noting, that according to a FRL researcher in a Half-Dome talk, mentioned that current fixed focus for people over mid-forties is the best VR will ever get for them – as everything remains sharp, due their eyes being less able to accomodate closer than the ~1.5m focal plane projection distance. This is why many people find they can use current headsets without needing their glasses.

    In addition, a study has shown that fixed-focus VR use actually strengthens eye muscles, showing measurable growth of muscle fibres and reduces the rate of developing myopia. The accomodation-vergence strain exercise is good for the eye and is used for treating various weak eye muscle conditions.

    Whereas, varifocal is likely to result in the normal worsening of eyes because it’s not going to strain or exercise the eye muscles, adjusting to suit them automatically and thus, no effort or gain.

  • They’ll use their expertise in the Half-Dome headsets! Excited of the contribute they can give to VR