Snap Inc is making some definite strides into augmented reality territory as of late. It not only announced yesterday that its next-gen version of Spectacles will be a AR device, but it’s now come to light that the company is acquiring WaveOptics, the startup behind the AR optics within the Spectacles themselves.
As confirmed by The Verge, Snap has agreed to acquire the UK-based startup. The reported sum is “over $500 million.”
WaveOptics, which is said to employ 125 people, is reportedly now working under Snap’s hardware division. The Verge reports that Snap is providing half of the acquisition price in stocks, and is reserving the option to either pay in cash or stocks after two years.
Founded in 2014, WaveOptics makes waveguide optics, micro projectors, and full AR modules. Its waveguide tech can be found in many AR headsets such as Rokid’s Project Aurora headset, which includes WaveOptics chassis and optical modules.
More recently, WaveOptics showed off prescription waveguide lenses built in partnership with Luxexcel, a UK-based 3D printing company focused on transparent materials.
A Snap spokesperson confirmed that WaveOptics will both continue operations to supply other companies with its tech whilst working with Snap on custom AR optics.
The 4th-generation Spectacles are being shipped out in relatively low numbers to developers. A reported 1,000 units are supposedly going out to interested devs, so there’s still a long ways to go before Snap starts pitching AR to consumers.
The dev kit has also made some clear compromises to reach a lightweight form-factor; it has a 26.3° diagonal field-of-view—much smaller than HoloLens 2’s diagonal field-of-view of 52°—and only has a 30-minute battery life. Obvious areas in need of improvement aside, the acquisition of WaveOptics is a flag in the sand for Snap. It’s setting itself up to be in direct competition with Google and Facebook as those companies reveal further working on their own respective consumer AR headsets.
WaveOptics is a UK-based company founded in 2014. It supplies transparent optical waveguides and accompanying projectors.
Snap, the company behind Snapchat, revealed its first AR glasses yesterday, with WaveOptics displays onboard. While the field of view is much narrower than headsets like HoloLens & Magic Leap, the display is much brighter so can be practically used outdoors.
The Verge report claims the roughly 125 person team at WaveOptics will now report to Snap’s hardware vision, but will continue to supply other companies while working to build custom optics for Spectacles.
As the specs of Spectacles show, AR is still a very early technology. There are still huge technical hurdles to overcome to appeal to a broad consumer market – hurdles that could take the better part of this decade overcome. Companies like Snap are preparing now to shape this new landscape – or at least to not be left behind.
WaveOptics, a designer and manufacturer of waveguide optics for AR displays, announced it’s raised a total of $39 million (£30m) in Series C funding, something the company says will help scale its business operations in the UK, US and Asia, and build a high volume manufacturing capability.
WaveOptics initially raised a majority of its Series C in December 2018, which at the time tallied $26 million. Now, the company has concluded the investment round with an additional $13 million. The additional funding came from existing investor Goertek, one of the VR industry’s leading manufacturers, and new investor Hostplus, an Australian venture capital firm.
Although the China-based Goertek isn’t a household name, the company has quietly become a key enabler in the VR industry, providing manufacturing services behind some of the most prominent VR products on the market.
“We are seeing significant progress with our customers developing their own products based on our technology,” says David Hayes, WaveOptics CEO. “This was demonstrated in the first half of 2019 when we secured a number of significant partnerships with global OEMs and ODMs.”
WaveOptics now boasts both a 40 degree and 28 degree field of view waveguide product, along with its own 40 degree light engine, the tiny projector that works in concert with waveguides to create AR imagery.
WaveOptics expects to expand its product lineup with larger field of view optics at some point in the future. The company last told Road to VR back in November 2018 that a full color waveguide with a 55 degree field of view was in development.
WaveOptics, a UK-based designer and manufacturer of diffractive waveguides for use in augmented reality (AR) wearable devices, has today announced the completion of a new funding round. In its first stage of Series C funding, WaveOptics has managed to raise $26 million USD (£20m GBP) towards expansion plans.
This round was led by Octopus Ventures, one of WaveOptics’ largest shareholders and supported by other existing shareholders including IP Group, Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Gobi Partners, as well as new investors Goertek and Optimas Capital Partners.
Goertek’s investment continues the company’s interest in WaveOptics after a previous announcement agreeing to an exclusive manufacturing partnership that will enable the global mass production of waveguides.
“We have made excellent progress over the last year with our high performing, manufacturable, and versatile waveguides. We are now working with a wide range of leading global OEMs and ODMs as they ramp up the development of their products,” said David Hayes, WaveOptics CEO in a statement. “These additional funds will enable us to scale up rapidly around the world, particularly in Asia and the US. This will include our ability to manage and support an increasing number of customers across different sectors. The market is gathering pace with AR wearables expected to become available in volume by the end of 2019.”
Discussing the funding round Simon King,Principal atOctopus Ventures, added: “We are delighted to have led the first stage of this funding round, backing the fantastic team at WaveOptics as we believe the business is on track to become a leading UK-headquartered global tech business. WaveOptics has now established its position as the key optical technology provider to its global customers and partners. They are unique in their ability to build AR hardware solutions at scale to address the numerous opportunities in the emerging AR ecosystem.”
WaveOptics, a manufacturer of diffractive waveguide optics for AR displays, today announced it has raised a $25 million Series C investment which will be used to continue building a large volume supply chain for the company’s optics.
UK-based WaveOptics said that the $26 million Series C investment was led by Octopus Ventures, one of the company’s largest existing investors, and was joined by other existing investors as well as new investors Goertek and Optimas Capital Partners.
The company calls the investment a “first stage,” suggesting that it may expand its Series C round with additional follow-on investment in the near future.
WaveOptics says it plans to use the capital to scale business operations domestically (in the UK) and abroad, aiming to build up a large volume manufacturing supply chain to meet expected demand in Asia and the US.
WaveOptics makes diffractive waveguide optics for AR displays. While the company’s current ‘Phlox 40’ optic offers a 40 degree diagonal field of view across a 16:9 aspect ratio, WaveOptics tells Road to VR that a full color WaveGuide with a 55 degree field of view is in development.
AR optics maker WaveOptics has announced a manufacturing partnership with Goertek, one of the VR industry’s leading manufacturers. The deal will enable mass production of WaveOptics’ waveguides for integration into AR headsets which the companies say could be market-ready at a $600 price point in 2019.
China-based Goertek is not a widely recognized name within the VR industry but the company has quietly become a key enabler, providing manufacturing services behind some of the most prominent VR products on the market.
Now, as Goertek looks to play a similar role in the growing AR space, the company has announced that a partnership with WaveOptics which will enable Goertek to offer mass produced AR optics, either as individual components to be used in other AR headsets, or in their own ODM products.
AR optics are often a large contributor to the cost of an AR headset, and with the partnership the companies say they will be able to enable market-ready AR headsets in 2019 at a price point of $600.
WaveOptics is a designer of diffractive waveguide optics. Waveguides can enable extremely thin optics by using structures within the lens which can redirect light in arbitrary directions. In addition to thin optics, the waveguide’s capabilities mean that the display source itself can be mounted in a way that makes an AR headset much more compact than would be possible with other approaches, like Meta 2’s fishbowl optics.
WaveOptics announced that it had raised a $16 million Series B investment last year, and claims to have raised $25 million to date. In the newly announced Goertek partnership, WaveOptics stands to clearly demonstrate the claimed scalability of its approach to manufacturing affordable waveguide optics using a lithographic approach.
According to the company’s website, its current optic, the ‘Phlox 40’, offers a 40 degree diagonal field of view across a 16:9 aspect ratio. That’s in the same class as devices like HoloLens and Magic Leap, which lack a wide enough field of view to be particularly immersive. Assuming the Phlox 40 is the optic that Goertek will be offering through the partnership, it’s likely that it will initially see more use in smartglasses than true AR headsets.
WaveOptics expects to be able to expand the field of view of their offering at some point in the future, but pushing beyond 50 degrees has been a challenge for most waveguide technology to date; in the VR industry, a 90 degree field of view is considered the minimum by many for high levels of immersion, but surely even smaller fields of view can be useful and immersive if paired with the right content design.
UK-based augmented reality (AR) component company WaveOptics have been quite busy recently, working on a project for cost-effective AR smart glasses and adding new members to its management team. The company is now seeking to break into America with the opening of a new headquarter in the USA.
WaveOptics believes that the opening of the new American HQ is a significant step in the growth of the company. A number of US-based customers have already signed on as clients, and new new US location allows the company to better support its US customers.
Mike Lynch will be joining the company as North American President, leading the company’s expansion into the US and will primarily be focussing on developing the WaveOptics customer base and technical support resources in the USA. Lynch will be reporting to WaveOptics CEO David Hayes.
Lynch previously held leadership roles in a number of companies and organisations, most recently at SpaceX and DAQRI.
David Hayes, CEO WaveOptics, commented: “Opening our office in North America is a substantial milestone for the business and allows us to leverage the significant opportunities in the region. The US is an important market for us as we continue to build our relationships with key customers and partners across the globe. “We are focused on growing our presence and local expertise in the US-making our AR waveguide technology and unique capability to mass manufacture at an affordable price point available to our existing and potential customers in the US and beyond. “Mike brings considerable commercial and operational experience and will be a key member of the team as we expand our presence in North America.”
WaveOptics hopes that this new development will aid in its aim of becoming a key provider of components for AR wearables and smart glasses.
For future coverage of WaveOptics and other developments in the AR industry, keep checking with VRFocus.
As the immersive technology market changes so companies seek to adapt, either externally or internally. Some will seek investment, others will instigate growth through a merger or takeover of another firm. Potentially for the benefit of adding more skills and/or products to their business. Others will expand their operations with new staff and services. For WaveOptics, the UK-based designer and manufacturer of diffractive waveguides, which are a key optical component in augmented reality (AR) wearable devices, such as smart glasses. The team has again chosen to strengthen its internal team with new hires.
At the end of last year, WaveOptics took on David Hayes – the former Executive Vice President of Enterprise-focused smart glasses manufacturer DAQRI as their CEO. Now the firm has taken on a new Operations Director and Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Gary Spencer and Phil Greenhalgh respectively.
Greenhalgh is also a former DAQRI employee, and was previously the leader of the AR hardware engineering team. While Spencer is a 25-year veteran of the technology sector spanning a number of key roles in multinational companies.
“As CTO, Phil Greenhalgh will be responsible for research and development, driving forwards the focus on material sciences, and developing waveguides and projector systems with higher fields of view.” Says WaveOptics in a statement. “Gary Spencer, who joins as Operations Director, will be responsible for all aspects of our Operations, as WaveOptics expands its manufacturing capabilities across Europe and Asia.”
“These two senior appointments strengthen our management team and also are a clear demonstration of our rapid growth and international development.” Adds Hayes on the new hires. “Both Phil and Gary bring considerable technical and manufacturing experience, as well
as in-depth AR expertise. They will be key members of the team as we position the business to take advantage of the numerous opportunities in the rapidly developing and expanding AR market.”
Das Start-up WaveOptics aus dem United Kingdom konnte im letzten Jahr auf sich aufmerksam machen, denn beim Series-B-Funding sprangen über 15 Millionen US-Dollar für die Finanzierung der eigenen Vision heraus. Laut Business Insider hatten sich an der Finanzierung Octopus Ventures, Touchstone Innovations, Robert Bosch Venture Capital und Gobi Ventures beteiligt. Zum Ende des kommenden Jahres möchte WaveOptics mit einer neuen AR-Brille den Konsumentenmarkt erobern.
WaveOptics plant 600 US-Dollar AR-Brille für 2019
Aktuell ist nur wenig über die Hardware bekannt, jedoch sind sich die Entwickler beim Preis bereits relativ sicher und sagen, dass die AR-Brille unter 600 US-Dollar kosten wird. Zudem soll die Brille in einer Partnerschaft mit dem Nanotech-Hersteller EV Group (ECG) entstehen:
“Diese Partnerschaft markiert einen Wendepunkt in der AR-Branche und ist ein entscheidender Schritt in der Massenproduktion hochwertiger AR-Lösungen – eine Fähigkeit, die bisher nicht möglich war”, sagt David Hayes, CEO von WaveOptics. “Diese Zusammenarbeit ist der Schlüssel zur Entwicklung von AR-Wearables; gemeinsam sind wir gut positioniert, um Massenmarkt-Innovationen in AR zu bringen und neue Wege zur Skalierbarkeit zu geringeren Kosten als je zuvor zu eröffnen.” (Übersetzt mit www.DeepL.com/Translator)
Denkbar ist, dass auch andere Unternehmen von der Partnerschaft profitieren werden, da die Produktionskosten von speziellen Teilen durch eine Massenproduktion der EV Group gedrückt werden könnten. Zu den möglichen Spezifikationen der kommenden AR-Brille von WaveOptics gibt es noch keine Informationen, jedoch wird ein extrem großes Field of View angepriesen und die Bilder sprechen für eine Erkennung des Raumes. Erste Development Kits will das Team bereits im Juli 2018 anbieten.
When it comes to UK based work into augmented reality (AR) one of the biggest names out there must surely be WaveOptics. Much like fellow AR company Vuzix, it’s a name you hear often within the news and a company that keeps itself very busy.
Again, much like Vuzix, they focus on smart glasses, except they specifically on the design and manufacture of diffractive waveguides a key optical component in such AR related products with the aim of reducing the cumbersome size of some AR headsets currently seen on the market. Channelling light from a micro display to harness waveguide hologram physics and photonic crystals rather than more conventional AR projection. July last year saw the company secure a £12 million (GBP) investment in its technology from around the world. Which, the company said, would help position it as “a leader and key technology enabler” within the industry of AR development as it looks to experiences in the industrial, enterprise and consumer markets.
Their latest announcement sees WaveOptics partner with EV Group (EVG) – a leading supplier of wafer bonding and nano-imprint lithography equipment. In a move designed to help bring WaveOptics’ technology into the mass market. This continues a trend started earlier this year when WaveOptics announced another partnership, that time with Coretronic – again with the goal of reducing costs and making development easier.
“Leveraging EVG’s expertise in equipment and process technology for volume manufacturing will allow AR-end user products to hit the market by 2019 for under $600 – the lowest price point in the industry today.” The company said in a statement.
“This partnership marks an AR industry inflexion point and is a critical step in the mass manufacture of high quality AR solutions – a capability that has not been possible to date.” Said David Hayes, who joined the WaveOptics as their CEO last December. A combination of EVG’s expertise together with our scalable and versatile technology, will allow ar-end user products to be on the market for under $600 by the end of next year. This collaboration is key to unlocking the development of AR wearables; together we are well positioned to bring mass market innovation in AR, opening new paths to scalability at a lower cost than ever before.”
“We develop new technologies and processes to outperform the most complex challenges, helping our customers to successfully commercialise their new product ideas.” Added Corporate Technology Development and IP Director at EVG Markus Wimplinger. “For the proliferation of our leading edge Nanoimprint Lithography (NIL) technology, we have created our Nilphotonics Competence Centre. Within this framework, which has strong policies to protect our Customers’ IP, we support our customers on their product development and commercialisation journey from the feasibility to the production phase. This is exactly what we are doing today with Waveoptics, an established leader in AR, to provide a truly scalable solution to end customers.”
VRFocus will bring you more news from the AR industry very soon.