By: Jonathan Waldern, Ph.D, Founder and CEO
DigiLens is well known for providing augmented reality (AR) technology to aerospace juggernauts such as Rockwell Collins and motorcycles with BMW. Now, it’s making waves in the automotive industry.
Today, I am very pleased to announce that Continental AG, one of the world’s top five automotive suppliers, is investing in DigiLens to join forces to develop a DigiLens waveguide based Head Up-Display, with a very large windscreen image required for “Augmented Reality”.
Continental’s investment is huge validation for DigiLens Waveguide Diffractive Optics. After all, they are the market leader. We also found out recently Waveguide Diffractive Optics technology isn’t easy to develop, as some other famous start-ups in our field are discovering, (much to their chagrin). And it is gratifying to see that Continental has noticed our success in Aerospace and invested in both our future.
More importantly, though, we are thrilled that a major player such as Continental is extremely serious about leveraging our AR technology for a very worthy goal: safer driving.
For several years now, the automotive industry has been looking for ways to embed vital driving information into vehicle windshields. The idea is to allow drivers to keep their eyes straight ahead – and on the road – rather than looking down to speedometers, fuel gauges and other readouts.
But these efforts have been hampered by the complexity of Head-Up Display (HUD) technology, which involves elaborate arrays of lenses and mirrors working together to project data and road images on glass just a few meters from the driver. To date, these systems have been limited by small image sizes and bulky projector boxes that made them unviable for use in most cars.
DigiLens is changing all of that. The company’s Waveguide technology utilizes integrated diffractive optics that allows us to eliminate the need for oversized lenses and mirrors. We literally print them in a thin waveguide plate. Display sizes are significantly increased so drivers can, for the first time, be able to overlay and “Augment”the out of the car view with important information, especially as it relates to surrounding awareness. Also, as the size of the projector box is now significantly reduced, the DigiLens based HUD can now fit neatly beneath the dashboards of many cars – all cars one day.
We believe that with major players such as Continental investing in our solution, we’ll see an increasing number of new vehicles featuring AR-HUDs soon. In fact, our joint target is for prototype sampling to auto makers next year, with mass production in 2022.
Continental already supplies HUDs for several automakers, including BMW, Renault and Mercedes, and they too are openly developing newer systems built around AR. By combining our expertise and technology we should provide a formidable partnership for car makers.
As opposed to static digital readouts, AR displays are dynamic, merging elements of reality (such as the road) with computer generated imagery (such as a distance meter). For example, the display could see a vehicle ahead and put a bar beneath it, that changes color as a driver gets closer to it.
DigiLens has grown its business serving aerospace and military customers, but we are now experiencing more demand from automotive, security and CE customers of late. The Continental investment is the latest evidence of this, and we would expect to see even further traction in 2017 and beyond.
Stay tuned for more exciting announcements after CES 2017 and have a very happy (and safe) new year.