Samsung invests in eyewear company DigiLens XR at a valuation of over $500 million

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DigiLens has raised funds from Samsung Electronics in a round that values ​​the makers of augmented reality smart glasses at more than $500 million.

DigiLens, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., did not specify the exact amount it has raised for the development of its extended reality (XR) glasses, which will offer AR functionality, such as overlaying digital images on what you see.

DigiLens CEO Chris Pickett said in a previous interview with VentureBeat that the latest smart glasses are more advanced than the models the company introduced in 2019.

DigiLens’ first product is a holographic waveguide display containing a laser-etched thin-film photopolymer embedded with microscopic holograms of mirror-like optics. A micro-display is projected from one end of the lens and the optic spins the light wave, guiding it across the surface before another set of optics return it to the eye.

DigiLens refined this technique more than a decade ago when it collaborated with Rockwell Collins to create avionics Heads-Up Display (HUD) systems for the US military. More recently, the company has developed a photopolymer material and holographic copying process that allows it to produce diffracting optics with printers, which tend to be cheaper than traditional precision engraving machines.

DigiLens has competitors in TruLife Optics, WaveOptics, and Colorado-based Akonia Holographics.

Joining Samsung Electronics in the funding are Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Diamond Edge Ventures, the strategic investment arm of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation, Alsop Louie Partners, 37 Interactive Entertainment, UDC Ventures, the venture capital arm of Universal Display Corporation , Dolby Family Ventures, and others.

Above: DigiLens’ Design v1 is a modular prototype.

Image Credit: DigiLens

A second closing is expected to be completed towards the end of 2021 to allow other strategic investors to join this definitive fundraising.

“Today’s announcement helps position DigiLens as the leader in the race to develop the core optical technologies that are critical to the large-scale deployment of augmented reality (AR) and extended reality (XR) smart devices. ),” Pickett said in a statement. “The waveguide display optics are the most challenging and important step in the development of head-worn hardware. We are excited to work with Samsung Electronics on this critical next step in the development process. category creation.Samsung’s innovative nature and proven track record in mobile phone manufacturing
devices on a global scale will create value for the entire industry. Bringing smart glasses to market will require an ecosystem approach to meet the time, volume and cost structure required for consumer devices. This funding round puts the necessary pieces in place to finally bring enterprise and consumer smart glasses to market at a realistic price point.

Extended reality (XR) devices are poised to become the next mobile device and a once-in-a-generation strategic inflection point, the company said. XR has profound applications and potential uses in a wide range of sectors ranging from industry to medicine, education and entertainment. XR is the next step in the evolution of computing from laptops, tablets and smartphones. Extended Reality is an umbrella term that includes Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) devices. Virtual reality creates an immersive experience that transports users from the physical world to a virtual world.

AR provides a digital overlay on the physical world for a more “hands-free” experience, while MR includes elements of both. DigiLens is one of the de facto optical standards for smart glass experiences because its technology offers the best balance of thin, light, high performance, low cost, and highly manufacturable waveguide displays for AR smart glasses. DigiLens’ proprietary photopolymer and holographic contact copy manufacturing process is more cost effective and scalable than other waveguide solutions on the market, enabling lenses that are smaller, lighter, thinner, brighter and more efficient .

“At Samsung, we develop and innovate technologies that deliver unparalleled value to our global customers and enable experiences that go beyond what they expect. We are very pleased to invest and collaborate with DigiLens to prepare differentiated and competitive AR devices,” said Hark Sang Kim, Executive Vice President of Samsung Electronics, in a statement. “I am delighted to join the DigiLens Board of Directors, and I am committed to strengthening the close ties between our two companies. »

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Sarah C. Figueiredo