Lynx Secures $4M in Series A Funding, Aims to Become “European Champion of Mixed Reality”

Lynx, the French XR hardware startup known for crowdfunding the Lynx R-1 mixed reality headset, today announced it’s secured $4 million in its Series A round, led by social VR platform Somnium Space.

Alongside Somnium Space, participants in the latest funding round also include what Lynx calls early supporters of the company and “other investors involved in the AR/VR field such as ex-Meta and Google engineers.”

This brings the company’s total outside funding to $6.8 million, according to Crunchbase data, following the R-1 headset’s $800,000 Kickstarter campaign back in late 2021 and a seed round of $2 million in early 2019.  As a part of the deal Artur Sychov, founder & CEO of Somnium Space, is joining the company’s board of directors.

Built on Qualcomm’s XR2 chipset, Lynx R-1 combines high quality cameras and virtual reality displays to achieve passthrough AR in addition to standard VR (aka, mixed reality), making it an early pioneer of the category. The headset also ditches the standard Fresnel lenses for a novel optic called a “four-fold catadioptric freeform prism,” which is said to slim down the size of Lynx R-1 seemingly beyond what current Fresnels can do.

“At Somnium Space we truly believe in the future of open and decentralized Metaverse which empowers its users. This includes, not only software, but also very importantly hardware,” says Artur Sychov, Founder & CEO of Somnium Space. “The Lynx team led by Stan has created an extraordinary AR / VR device (Lynx-r) with openness in mind which will change and revolutionize the way we all think and interact with this market category. I am very happy to support this company and believe that together we will push the boundaries and potential of the VR/AR industry forward.”

Founded in 2019, Lynx has high ambitions for its R-1 headset too. Priced at $600 for its consumer version, the company is looking to lead the way into the same product category that many established players are soon to enter, including Meta with Project Cambria and Apple with its rumored headset, reportedly code named N301.

“We have this opportunity right here to create the European Champion of Mixed Reality with our work at Lynx, supported by a vibrant community of users and developers desperate to see alternatives to Big Tech companies products and their closed ecosystems.” says Stan Larroque, founder and CEO of Lynx. “What’s the point of creating a European Metaverse if the underlying platform, the door we use to access it, remains in the hands of the same big players with their damaging business models?” he adds.

Since finalizing the design of Lynx R-1, the company has also completed an office expansion in Paris, now at more 200 square meters of R&D, and established a new office in Taiwan.

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Google Acquires MicroLED Startup Raxium to Bolster AR Ambitions

Google is adding to its portfolio of XR microdisplay designs and talent, as the company announced it’s acquired microLED (µLED) designer Raxium.

The acquisition was previously reported by The Information in March, however now Google has confirmed in a blog post that it has indeed acquired Raxium, a five-year old startup building microdisplays for use in AR and VR headsets.

The Information’s report held Raxium was sold to Google for $1 billion, however official details of the acquisition are still murky. Google says Raxium will join its Devices & Services team, which is tasked with development of Google’s consumer devices.

Image courtesy Raxium, Google

It’s thought that Raxium will allow for Google to create lighter, cheaper displays for its upcoming AR devices. While conventional Super AMOLEDs found in smartphones measure around 50 µm per pixel, Raxium says it’s shrunk its microdisplays to feature µLED measuring 3.5 µm per pixel. The company claims its technology has led to an efficiency “5X greater than the previously published world record.”

“The team at Raxium has spent five years creating miniaturized, cost-effective and energy efficient high-resolution displays that have laid the foundation for future display technologies. Raxium’s technical expertise in this area will play a key role as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts,” says Rick Osterloh, senior VP of Google’s Devices & Services team.

Google is undoubtedly gearing up to release XR headsets of some type in the future, which may compete with devices from Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Snap. In 2020, Google acquired North, a Canada-based company known for creating unobtrusive prescription-compatible smartglasses—a sight more stylish than Google Glass. Check out our primer on the difference between smartglasses and AR headsets to learn more.

Earlier this year Google snapped up Bernard Kress, principal optical architect on the Microsoft HoloLens team. Kress is now the Director of XR Engineering at Google Labs, an internal XR division founded late last year. According to previous reports, Google Labs is currently working on an AR headset, code named Project Iris, which is rumored to ship sometime in 2024.

Reports detailing Project Iris maintain a device providing a standalone experience with onboard power, computing, and outward-facing cameras for world sensing capabilities—similar in description and function to headsets like HoloLens or Magic Leap.

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Waveguide Maker DigiLens Announces New Investment at $530M Valuation

DigiLens, a maker of waveguide optics for AR glasses, today announced a second close of its Series D funding round, claiming a $530 million valuation.

DigiLens is one of several companies building waveguide optics and positioning them for use in XR. Waveguides allow for extremely compact near-eye optics which are no thicker than the lenses on a pair of glasses.

Today the company announced a second close of its Series D investment round which brings participation from Corning, a major materials company known for its Gorilla Glass product that’s used widely in the smartphone space, and Optimas Capital Management, the strategic investment arm of Goertek which is a major manufacturer of XR devices.

The Series D investment raised “more than $50 million”; the first close of the round was originally announced back in November 2021 and valued the company at $500 million, according to DigiLens.

With additional investment from Corning and Optimas Capital Management in the second close of the round, the company says it has been valued at $530 million. The full round includes a number of strategic investors including Samsung Electronics, Diamond Edge Ventures (the strategic investment arm of Mitsubishi Chemical), and others.

In an investment round, a startup’s valuation is determined by the price of each share multiplied by the total number of shares in the company. It’s fairly rare for a company to state their valuation outright, except in cases where they believe the valuation shows the company in a position of strength and momentum.

That’s clearly the case here; with waveguides expected to be a critical component in AR headsets and glasses targeting mainstream adoption, DigiLens is vying to be the leading supplier of the technology. The goal of publicly announcing a large valuation is likely to throw off competitors by making potential investors think twice about who is leading the race toward an AR glasses market that many believe is poised to explode.

The company claims its particular approach to waveguides—diffractive gratings manufactured with an optical copy process—are the most cost effective and scalable option among available waveguide technologies. DigiLens also says its specific manufacturing process allows for more flexible optical designs that give its optics advantages over other waveguides.

Of course, every waveguide company makes similar claims about manufacturability and scalability; it won’t be clear who is actually right until we start to see mass-produced devices coming to market.

To that end, the company claims the first products based on its waveguide technology will hit the market within the next year.

“We’re working on projects today that use our industry leading volume Bragg grating technology that over the next year will be in the market in a material way. These advances will showcase that we’re the only solution that is going to work when efficiency, uniformity and cost are considered,” says DigiLens CEO Chris Pickett. “Then, with our next generation technology, we’ll have a step function in performance that will extend our lead even more.”

And we’ve got a good clue about what the first such devices could look like.

Photo by Road to VR

Last year DigiLens revealed the Design v1, a modular reference headset which the company hopes will accelerate the development and consumerization of AR glasses. The device is based on Snapdragon XR2 with a claimed 50° diagonal field-of-view from the company’s optics. Road to VR got an exclusive hands-on with the headset.

It seems likely that companies working with DigiLens will have received a sample of the Design v1, and some may even be using it as the basis for their own design.

And while AR glasses are where the industry ultimately wants to reach with this technology, it’s likely that we’ll see non-immersive smartglasses as the first entrants into the all-day wearable glasses space, eventually giving way to similar but more advanced devices with full AR capabilities.

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FOV Ventures Raises $18 Million to Fund European Metaverse Startups

FOV Ventures is a newly formed venture capital firm which plans to invest in early-stage metaverse startups. The firm says it has raised an initial $18.1 million as part of its first fund.

Founding partners David Haynes and Petri Rajahalme announced this month FOV Ventures, a Finland-based early-stage VC firm through which the duo plans to focus on Europe-based metaverse startups.

The firm says it has raised $18.1 million (€16.5 million) so far and plans to cap its first fund at $27.5 million (€25 million). Through the fund the firm plans to invest $274K–550K (€250K–500K) in up to 25 companies in pre-seed and seed stages.

The company says it is looking to fund startups working specifically in the areas of ‘Avatars & Identity’, ‘Retail & Digital Commerce’, ‘Immersive Social’, ‘Future of Work’, and ‘Tools & Infrastructure’.

“The metaverse represents a major expansion of today’s Internet, becoming more immersive, built with new tools such as real-time 3D game engines, and spanning an increasingly blurred line between the virtual and physical world,” the firm says.

FOV Ventures founding partners, Dave Haynes (left) and Petri Rajahalme (right) | Image courtesy FOV Ventures

Both founding partners have backgrounds in venture funding, according to the firm. Dave Haynes was previously part of Vive X, HTC’s VR investment fund, and the Europe-focused VC firm Seedcamp. Haynes purportedly led investments in LIV, Maze Theory, and Bodyswaps during his tenure at Vive X. Petri Rajahalme was Managing Director at the Nordic XR Startups fund, where he is said to have led investments in eight XR companies, among other work in the XR investment space prior to the formation of FOV Ventures.

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Dent Reality Raises $3.4M to Bring AR Turn-by-turn Directions into Retail

Dent Reality, the UK-based augmented reality startup, announced it’s secured £2.5m (~$3.4m) in funding, something the company plans to use to further its efforts to bring phone-based AR navigation into the retail sector.

The funding round was led by Pi Labs, with participation from Europe’s Sugar Capital, Silicon Valley’s 7Percent Ventures, and a number of angel investors. According to Crunchbase data, this follows a pre-seed investment round closed in March 2020, the amount of which wasn’t publicly disclosed.

Dent Reality has been building its AR-driven indoor positioning system for some time now. We last heard about Dent Reality early-2019 when the company first announced it would release a software development kit for iOS so retailers could integrate the map of indoor spaces, figure out where the user is, and use virtual paths and arrows to help shoppers find their destinations—a bit like an indoor GPS.

Co-founded by Andrew Hart and Ben Rosenbaum in 2019, the company has made strides in achieving wider recognition from traditional retailers. The company reveals it’s been working with UK-based retailer Marks & Spencer on a new testcase for its indoor tracking in the retailer’s Westfield London store in White City. That’s M&S in the video above.

“The app helps shoppers find every item on their list, with real-time guidance and information to supercharge their experience,” Dent Reality says. “The potential of the technology is extensive, and can be applied to campuses, airports, shopping centres, and museums, for example. Dent Reality’s waiting list currently includes hundreds of large organisations across a diverse range of different sectors.”

The studio says its able to operate in an environment where there may be 40,000 items in a typical location, and thousands of locations per retailer.

“Our vision is that every physical space will become digitally connected, enabling an entirely new type of interaction with the world around us. These ‘smart spaces’ will unlock rich information and transform billions of daily interactions for shoppers and retailers,” said CEO and co-founder Andrew Dent. “Right now, the biggest players in tech are working on building next-generation augmented reality wearables, and we’re building the killer consumer use-cases for this transformative technology. In the future, providing a frictionless digital experience in a physical location will become as essential for every business as having a website is today.”

Individual investors include co-founders Paul Forster and Rony Kahan, social VR founder Esteban Ordano, Tumbler veteran Matt Hackett, and ex-president of Citymapper Omid Ashtari.

The funding will be used to expand its team and services, the studio says, which will bring its services to new stores and retailers.

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Niantic Raises $300M Investment at $9 Billion Valuation to build “real-world metaverse”

Niantic, the company behind Pokémon GO, today announced it has raised a $300 million Series D investment which values the company at $9 billion. Beyond its geo-location games, the company has been building out a world-scale framework which it believes will be critical for a future full of rich augmented reality.

Niantic is best known for games like Pokémon GO and Pikman Bloom, and while these games focus mostly on geo-location gameplay, the company has long been steadily building up the tools and technology to deliver full AR experiences for the future. Earlier this month Niantic released its Lightship platform which gives developers a foundation for building shared, world-scale AR applications.

It’s on the back of that tech—and perhaps a little metaverse hype stirred up by Meta (formerly Facebook)—that Niantic has closed a $300 million Series D investment. The money comes from investment firm Coatue and values the company at $9 billion, according to Niantic. That bring’s Niantic’s total funding to $770 million to date, according to Crunchbase.

“Niantic is building a platform for AR based on a 3D map of the world that we believe will play a critical role in the next transition in computing,” said Matt Mazzeo, a General Partner at Coatue. “We are excited to partner with Niantic because we see this infrastructure supporting a metaverse for the real world and helping to power the next evolution of the internet.”

In the investment announcement the company also claimed that it has “tens of millions” of monthly active users across its existing titles.

Beyond building an AR platform for developers, Niantic clearly has ambitions to build more of its own first-party content—and maybe even hardware. Earlier this summer the company showed off a prototype demonstration of Pokémon GO running on HoloLens 2 and teased a glimpse of a see-through headset which we’re still eager to hear about. It’s undeniably preparing for a future of all-day AR glasses.

In order to accelerate that future, the company also recently announced Niantic Ventures, a $20 million fund to invest in burgeoning AR experiences build on its Lightship platform.

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Leading Hand-tracking Company Ultraleap Raises $82 Million Investment

Ultraleap, a leading company focused on hand-tracking interfaces, this week announced it has secured a £60 million (~$82 million) Series D investment, with the goal of expanding its hand-tracking and mid-air haptic tech in the XR space and beyond.

Formerly known as Ultrahaptics, Ultraleap was formed after the UK-based haptics company acquired leading hand-tracking company Leap Motion back in 2019. The new name clearly defined the merger’s unique combination of mid-air ultrasonic haptics now underpinned by some of the best hand-tracking tech in the industry.

This week Ultraleap announced it has raised a £60 million (~$82 million) Series D investment with participation from new investors Tencent, British Patient Capital, and CMB International, alongside existing investors Mayfair Equity Partners and IP Group plc.

“With this investment round, Ultraleap will continue to bring Gemini to different operating systems and increase their investment in tooling to enable developers to build more applications using the best interface—your hands. Ultraleap will also continue to invest in R&D to drive their machine-learning-based hand tracking even further ahead,” the company said in its investment announcement.

Ultraleap is betting that hand-tracking will be the primary input for XR and the metaverse. Last month the company released its latest revision.

While the company has been trying to get its tech into the XR space for many years now, it has yet to find significant traction. Though Ultraleap hand-tracking can be found on a few headsets like those from Varjo and Pimax, leading devices implementing hand-tracking—like Quest 2, HoloLens, and Magic Leap—are using their own solutions, as far as we know.

However, with a growing number of XR devices on the market and the steady march toward consumer-friendly AR glasses, the company seems poised to find the right fit eventually.

Ultraleap is also looking to find a home for its tech outside of the XR realm. The company has long been angling its tech in the automotive space as an in-car interface, as well as the out-of-home space in areas like exhibits, marketing installations, and touchless self-service kiosks.

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CEO Shares First Details on Magic Leap 2, Announces $500 Million in New Funding

Magic Leap today announced that it has raised $500 million in new capital at a $2 billion valuation. This comes ahead of the launch of its upcoming AR headset, Magic Leap 2, which it promises will be smaller, lighter, and tuned to be an “all day” device.

New Capital

Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson took to CNBC today during the channel’s Power Lunch show to reveal that the company has raised a $500 million investment at a $2 billion valuation. The company didn’t disclose who participated in the funding round.

Magic Leap had previously raised some $3 billion for its hyped AR headset which didn’t see nearly as much traction as the company hoped for. It nearly fell apart last year, and had gone as far as announcing significant layoffs, before a last minute investment of $350 million allowed it to restructure. Shortly thereafter, Peggy Johnson took over as CEO, replacing founder Rony Abovitz, and began to pivot the company more heavily toward the enterprise sector.

The First Details on Magic Leap 2

Magic Leap 2 will be the first new product from the company since Johnson took the reins. In addition to announcing the new investment today on CNBC’s Power Lunch, Johnson also teased more about the new AR headset.

Most interestingly, perhaps, she said Magic Leap 2 will be an “all day, every day” device, thanks to a more compact and comfortable form factor. This is intriguing because—if “all day” is to be believed—it suggests the headset will have significantly more battery life than the three or so hours of the original Magic Leap headset.

“These updated features lend themselves to achieving our goal of all day, everyday use, which is what the enterprise market has been asking for—a device that you can put on your head in the morning and wear all day long,” Johnson wrote today in a post on the company’s official blog.

It remains to be seen how the company plans to achieve this however. A truly ‘all day’ AR headset would be a breakthrough in the industry, as it would allow persistent and seamless augmentation of the real world, rather than donning a bulky headset for select use-cases. However, Johnson may merely be alluding to the headset being comfortable enough to wear all day, but only if it remains powered off until specifically needed. Alternatively the new headset could now include a swappable battery pack.

But bulk and battery life isn’t the only barrier to true practical ‘all day’ use. In an image of Magic Leap 2 released today we can see that the headset will still bring a notable penalty to one’s own field-of-view, similar to the original Magic Leap headset which significantly truncated the real-world FOV.

Image courtesy Magic Leap

Johnson also claimed Magic Leap 2 will include a new “segmented dimming” technology which she says will allow the headset to be practical in brighter environments, like an operating room. She didn’t elaborate on how it worked.

Magic Leap 2 will also feature improved “color fidelity,” “text legibility,” and “image quality,” according to Johnson, as well as “double the field-of-view.” We take this to mean ‘double the area‘ which is less significant than doubling the diagonal field-of-view, but it would be an improvement none-the-less, likely bringing Magic Leap 2’s field-of-view on par with HoloLens 2.

Image courtesy Magic Leap

It looks like most of this increase comes, oddly, in the vertical direction, according to a depiction shared by the company, which Johnson claims is the “largest field of view in the industry.”

Magic Leap says it plans to launch Magic Leap 2 in 2022, though it says “select customers” are already using the headset through an early access program.

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AR Glasses Creator Nreal Secures $100M Series C Financing to Expand Internationally

Chinese AR glasses startup Nreal announced it’s raised a fresh $100 million Series C financing round, something it says will be used for R&D and to fund wider international expansion.

As first reported by CNBC, the latest round reportedly brings the company’s valuation to $700 million. That figure was obtained by an anonymous source with knowledge of the deal, CNBC says, however the company has yet to comment.

The Series C round was led by YF Capital, NIO Capital, and Angel Plus China, with participation by Sequoia Capital China, GP Capital, GL Ventures. According to data reported by Crunchbase, this brings the company’s lifetime funding to $171 million.

Nreal is probably best known for its smartphone-tethered AR glasses, dubbed Nreal Light which made headlines back at CES 2019 for its relatively small form-factor in comparison to Magic Leap One or Microsoft HoloLens.

Image courtesy Nreal

Nreal Light achieves this by offloading processing to a compatible smartphone. It also incorporates what are called ‘birdbath’ optics, which are notably cheaper to produce than waveguides and typically have greater light efficiency.

Nreal Light has been on sale through telecoms in Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Spain, typically priced between $600 and $820 depending on the region.

Notably the Beijing-based company hasn’t launched Nreal Light in China or the United States, something Nreal CEO Chi Xu says may happen at some point in 2022 along with “more countries as well,” Chi Xu tells CNBC.

The company’s Series C comes at a time when Apple is clearly making preparations for its own XR headsets. A recent report holds that Apple is sourcing parts for its VR headset. A mid-2020 report from serial leaker John Prosser holds that Apple’s AR glasses are headed to market sometime in late 2021 or early 2022.

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Resolution Games Secures $25M Series C Funding, ‘Demeo’ Surpasses “multi-million dollars” in Revenue

Resolution Games, the studio behind popular multiplayer VR titles Demeo (2021) and Blaston (2020), today announced it has secured a Series C funding round of $25 million. The Stockholm-based company says the investment will be used to bring “proper live games to the industry and expand their ability to innovate across both VR and AR platforms.”

The round was co-led by Qualcomm Ventures and BITKRAFT Ventures, followed by Knutsson Holdings. Previous investors to take part in the funding round include GV, MizMaa, GP Bullhound, Partech, Creandum, Initial Capital, Bonnier Ventures and Sisu Game Ventures. Including the current round, this brings the company’s total outside investment to $38.5 million.

Founded in 2015, Resolution Games has been responsible for some of the most well-known titles from the early days of consumer VR, including Bait! (2016), Wonderglade (2017), and Solitaire Jester (2015). The studio later set its sights on developing AR and VR games for Rovio’s iconic Angry Birds property, and original titles such as Demeo, a recently released dungeon crawler RPG, 1v1 dueling game Blaston, and multiplayer cooking game Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale (2020) among others.

Demeo (2021) | Image courtesy Resolution Games

No doubt a significant contributing factor: Resolution announced that Demeo has already surpassed the multi-million dollar mark in revenue and has “blown away records for time spent, retention and more.”

Resolution says it’s going to continue its focus on creating these sorts of multiplayer titles, or what the studio calls “live games,” which highlights the social element of direct user interaction and cooperation. The studio says the funding will allow them to continue development on existing titles in addition to creating more live games.

“Six years ago, Resolution Games was one of the first studios focused on VR and AR. We’ve learned a lot, worked in a time with limited technology, survived a small market, and have continued to think big-picture and long-term,” said Tommy Palm, CEO of Resolution Games. “We see vast potential in VR and that the market is maturing. We want to up the game and standard for quality to ensure VR users have the best possible experience, and that VR games not just meet – but surpass – the potential from what we’ve seen on other platforms like PC and console.”

Boaz Peer, Senior Investment Director of Europe and Israel at Qualcomm, will join the studio’s board of directors. Malte Barth, founding general partner of BITKRAFT Ventures, will be a board observer.

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