Article was originally posted in the Nikkei newspaper on Nov. 29, 2018
AR Lenses, Cross-Industrial Cooperation
Mitsubishi Chem. and others invest in U.S start-ups
Before entering the era of AR (Augmented Reality), the top-runners of various industries are joining hands. Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings decided to invest several hundred million yen in DigiLens, a U.S start-up company. Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings will be co-developing light-weight and cheap lenses for AR. U.S Niantic, which is known for its “Pokemon Go” also invests in DigiLens and will be producing AR contents. The two major players of materials and games team up to support the penetration of AR.
DigiLens is a start-up company for AR devices. Its technology includes inserting special materials into glass and plastic and using a small-sized projector to project images. It has developed one-eyewear-type device that allows to display a map while riding a motorcycle or driving a car.
DigiLens has an alliance of top-runners from various industries that have already made investments. The members of the alliance include SONY, of which specialties include optical technologies such as cameras and content distribution, Hon Hai, which is the top electronic manufacturing service company in the world and Continental (Germany), which is a major automobile part company and taking initiatives on connected cars. In addition to these companies, the major material company, Mitsubishi Chemical HD, and Niantic, which became famous for the “Pokemon Go” game, which coordinates with location information, joined the alliance.
The purpose of Mitsubishi Chemical HD joining the AR alliance is to turn around their traditional “waiting to receive sales orders” attitude and take a leadership in the material development for AR devices. It intends to join the corporate alliance of making the market and get ahead of the AR era.
As an example of AR utilization, it will be possible to display information on a person or a product a user is facing or taking in hand. It will also allow to remotely share a view that another person is having. AR is viewed as “the next product of smartphone,” and every manufacturer is rushing to develop related technologies.
According to IDC, a research company, the market size of AR and Virtual Reality (VR) is projected to be the total of 208.7 billion dollars (approximately 23 trillion yen) by 2022 with the annual growth of 1.7 times.
Mitsubishi Chemical HD and DigiLens will together develop plastic lenses that project AR images. These lenses are lighter and harder to break than glass lenses. This is a technology that is essential for using the AR devices comfortably and safely. Niantic will create game contents for games that can be played with AR devices. There is a possibility of including popular publications such as “Pocket Monsters” and “Harry Potter” in its game contents.
DigiLens plans to move forward drastically by obtaining the core material and killer contents that attract consumers. It will launch eyewear-type devices to consumers in 2020. The retail price is expected to be lowered to 300 to 400 dollars. The eyewear-type AR devices are already made available by US Microsoft as “HoloLens,” but it costs 500,000 yen to import to Japan.
New applications are necessary for the AR era, so DigiLens is assumed to invite more partners for the AR alliance in the future. It intends to break the citadel of the smartphone economy with US Apple sitting on the top and create a new economy revolving AR.
▼AR (the abbreviation of Augmented Reality) – This is a technology to utilize location information and image recognition to display texts and images by overlaying them on the scenery of real world. This technology became famous after the smartphone game, “Pokemon Go”. It is assumed that the technology will be used for various indicators such as a front window of a car and lenses for eyewear-type devices. This is different from VR (Virtual Reality), which is created by computer graphics, etc.
Read the original article (Japanese): 181129日経_DigiLensへ出資