Of all the glass-based products made by Corning (NYSE:GLW), arguably none receives the same hype as Gorilla Glass. After all, the durable material initially gained fame as the protective cover glass of choice for Apple's first iPhone and has since found its way into over 3 billion devices from more than 40 major brands.
But Gorilla Glass isn't the only innovative product Corning is developing. In fact, the 164-year-old company with annual revenue of $10 billion spent around $800 million on research and development last year alone.
As a result, Corning has no shortage of slick products in the works that could easily have a profound impact on the world around us. Here are two of the most promising.
First is a product Corning has dubbed Fibrance, a thin, flexible optical glass fiber that diffuses light. Fibrance doesn't necessarily serve as a candidate to replace most primary light sources, but it could rather work as a supplementary solution for when clean, ambient light is ideal. It can be seamlessly sewn into fabrics or wearable electronics, for example, or installed in places such as swimming pools, stairs, and other architectural solutions.
Corning only just introduced Fibrance this past May, so it's still in its earliest stages and is sold primarily in development kits. But that means enterprising manufacturers have the chance to learn how to implement Fibrance into their products. Over the long term, and given the wide variety of scenarios Corning offers for the technology, it might not be long before we see Fibrance as an integral part of our lives.
Next is Dynamic Glass, which can automatically transition between clear and variable tint in response to both user preferences and the surrounding environment.
But while Corning says dynamic glass has been in development for decades, in mid-2013 it announced a strategic development agreement with a company named View, According to Corning, View has taken a "unique approach" with its own dynamic glass, which it believes should help usher the technology into the mainstream.
Its allure is no mystery: According to View, Dynamic Glass not only improves workers' productivity by seamlessly allowing daylight into buildings, but it also reduces energy consumption by an average of 20%. View first began commercializing Dynamic Glass on a large scale in 2012. But with the help of Corning's financial resources, supplementary R&D, and fusion glass manufacturing processes, the two companies are working diligently to further expand Dynamic Glass' scope.
As of this writing, Dynamic Glass has already been featured in 24 separate projects, and it counts among its customers the likes of NASA, CenturyLink, Hilton, the U.S. Marine Corps, and a number of municipalities and hospitals. But assuming Corning and View are able to further its capabilities while continuing to reduce costs to end users, it seems safe to assume the reach of Dynamic Glass will only grow from here.
Of course, that doesn't mean we should underplay the importance of Gorilla Glass, a new and improved version of which shows great promise for Corning and has already earned several significant smartphone design wins. If anything, however, cutting-edge products such as Fibrance and Dynamic Glass should serve as an encouraging reminder for investors of Corning's broad-reaching ambitions.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, BMW, Corning, and Nike and owns shares of Apple, Corning, and Nike. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.