SUNNYVALE, CA, DigiLens, a leader in waveguide diffractive optical technology and nanomaterials for augmented and virtual reality, announced the closing of a $22 million Series B investment round.
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Strategic investors include Sony, Foxconn, Continental and Panasonic, along with venture investors Alsop Louie Partners, Bold Capital, Nautilus Venture Partners and Dolby Family Ventures amongst others. The company will leverage these strategic relationships to bring to market several augmented reality displays and sensors for enterprise, consumer and transportation applications.
'It's taken us several years to perfect our diffractive optical materials and exposure process for AR-HUD (head-up display) manufacture,' said Jonathan Waldern, DigiLens Founder and CEO. 'Having successfully developed our DigiLens AeroHUD, in flight now for Rockwell Collins, this new investment will accelerate our wide field of view AutoHUD for Continental, MotoHUD we demoed with BMW and EyeHUD smart glasses for new partners in both enterprise and consumer markets.'
Comments from Investors:
'The next generation display technology will be glass. Data on glass is a critical capability for augmented and mixed reality applications such as gaming, navigation, telepresence, education, industrial, medical and military,' said Gilman Louie, Founder and Managing Director of Alsop Louie Partners and lead investor. 'Data on glass is being revolutionized by DigiLens' full-color and wide field of view optics and AR-HUD breakthroughs.'
'The use of DigiLens waveguide technology will help us develop cutting-edge lenses that are much thinner and more transparent than any smart glass on the market today,' said Hiroshi Mukawa, General Manager of the AR Eyeglass Program at Sony Corp.
'We believe augmented reality HUDs will not only enhance driver safety, but also accelerate automated driving acceptance by enhancing the driver's confidence in what the car actually sees and knows,' said Helmut Matschi, Executive Board Member and Head of the Interior Division at Continental. 'The large AR-HUD display will help keep drivers safe by putting critical travel information at eye level and allowing them to see what the robot car sees.'
'Augmented reality is a challenge, in part, because the devices are restrained by the laws of physics and not Moore's Law. We think diffractive optics holds the key to AR, but writing millions of tiny optic structures is best done photographically, using nano self-assembly, not expensive precision etching like HoloLens. We need to break the manufacturing price barrier,' said Dr. G. Chen, CTO at Foxconn. 'With DigiLens waveguide diffractive optics, they seem to have overcome most nagging technical problems and we see a very bright future for them.'
'We have supported DigiLens for several years and continue to believe their technology will address the complex challenge of delivering advanced diffractive optics for automotive and consumer HUDs,' said Hakan Kostepen, Executive Director of Strategy and Innovation at Panasonic Silicon Valley Center, Automotive Systems America.
DigiLens waveguide optics platform will allow many OEM's to finally access the 'eyeglass thin' waveguide component technology for AR applications. The display performance of etched nanostructures, called surface relief gratings (SRG's) as used by Microsoft HoloLens, Vuzix and Magic Leap are all limited to narrow field of view (FOV), due to the inherent physics of SRG grating interaction. This is fine for small screen displays, but has no place in immersive AR or VR 'mixed realities.'
DigiLens has been steadily developing the requisite optical materials and recordation processes to manufacture precision diffractive optics by photographically printing (not etching) the nanostructures. These electrically Switchable Bragg Gratings (SBG) allow for a higher efficiency and a wider FOV display in addition to the 'printable' manufacturing benefit. DigiLens has undertaken an extensive development process funded over many years from military research grants and corporate R&D support.