By: Jonathan Waldern, Ph.D, Founder and CEO
Today, DigiLens had the privilege of yet another round of strategic investment in the company – $22 million from eight well-known and highly influential industry leaders.
The disclosure was significant because it clearly demonstrates growing industry interest in DigiLens Waveguide Diffractive Optics as the technical base for an emerging breed of augmented reality (AR) displays and sensors for enterprise and consumer applications. Collaborating with their top AR engineers, we will jointly focus on application acceleration and manufacturing improvements, expecially with yield and cost.
Just as interesting, this round of funding stands out for who chose to get involved.
In addition to traditional venture investors such as Alsop Louis Partners, Bold Capital, Nautilus Venture Partners and Dolby Family Ventures, we attracted Continental, Foxconn Technology Group, Panasonic and Sony.
You probably know their names. But do you know why they might be collaborating with DigiLens?
Continental, one of the world’s top five auto suppliers, really shouldn’t be much of a surprise. They’ve been at the forefront of embedding AR technology into vehicle windshields to enhance driver safety. The idea is to superimpose all relevant driving information at eye level so drivers don’t have to turn their attention away from the road to check their speed, fuel level or anything else. With its investment in DigiLens, Continental says it hopes to also accelerate adoption of autonomous driving by letting drivers see what the robot is seeing. To that end, Continental demonstrated early versions of its AR-HUD technology at the CES 2017 trade show in Las Vegas earlier this month.
Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, is no stranger to AR either. The Taiwanese company, which produces iPhones among other well-known brands, has held (and sold) many AR patents over the years and is constantly looking to use AR and advanced robotics to help improve operational efficiency, while holding down costs. It sees DigiLens Waveguide technology as a way of accomplishing those goals while bringing quality, affordable products to businesses and consumers.
Panasonic, of course, is well known as one of the world’s largest Japanese electronics producers. But did you know it’s also a leader in automotive infotainment and connectivity system solutions? As such, Panasonic is constantly looking for ways to enhance the driving experience, and even showed a concept car at CES 2017 in Las Vegas that included car windows with AR capability (part of its eCockpit vision) and a 4K tablet screen in the middle of the cabin. DigiLens will collaborate with Panasonic to develop electronic components for Head-Up Display (HUD) projectors, mirrors, optic lenses and displays to enable these and other types of scenarios.
Sony also needs little introduction, and its interest in DigiLens should make a world of sense to anyone watching this space. The company has been a leader in the virtual reality (VR) industry and made waves in AR in 2015 with the release of its Sony SmartEyeGlass, transparent lens eyewear that superimposes information onto the wearer’s natural field of view.
The technology giant has been constantly honing and demonstrating smartglasses for the last 12 years or so. And although their current offering is presently monochrome and has a narrow field of view, they are building an enthusiastic developer community around enterprise applications that do everything from warehouse picking to improving aircraft maintenance. By combining joint technology assets, DigiLens and Sony will partner to develop full-color, high-efficiency AR-enabled smartglasses to accelerate market adoption.
All these investors – Continental, Foxconn, Panasonic and Sony – are innovators in their own right. In tandem with DigiLens, their work to advance the state of Augmented Reality will have far-reaching implications for a wide mix of industries, including automotive, aerospace, entertainment, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, oil and gas, and retail.
The sky’s the limit, and DigiLens is thrilled to be working with so many innovators to deliver precision optical systems for AR-enabled HUDs, eyewear and other business and consumer electronics.