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Zeiss backs electronic spectacles startup

13 Jul 2022

imec spin-out Morrow Eyewear attracts €10M in venture finance for glasses that switch between distance and near vision.

Morrow Eyewear, a startup company in Belgium that has developed liquid-crystal spectacles that can switch between close-up and distance vision correction, has raised more than €10 million in its latest funding round.

Led by the venture wing of the German optics giant Zeiss, whose business includes a large division dedicated to producing conventional lenses for vision care, the support brings the firm’s total funding to more than €25 million, and will be used to accelerate Morrow’s roll-out of new products.

Tunable platform
Founded in 2016, Morrow was formed as a spin-off by researchers at electronics development center imec and the University of Ghent, and now employs 23 people.

It has developed electronic “autofocal” glasses that switch focal length at the touch of button, based on Morrow’s patented tunable lens-in-foil platform.

Commercial 3D-printed spectacles based on the battery-powered technology were launched by Morrow last year, and are now available in a variety of material options, priced between €1099 and €1399.

Zeiss explains that the approach embeds a liquid crystal layer between two ultra-precise, thin-cut optical lenses. The switch in focal length is activated by applying a small electrical pulse, which causes the liquid crystal to refract light in a predetermined manner.

Gerrit Schulte, the head of Zeiss Ventures, said: “While AR/VR devices are on everyone’s mind today the general electrification and functionalization of glasses and their lenses is an area many times overlooked.

“Solutions such as the one developed by Morrow are key in enabling this.”

Read the small print
Paul Marchal, the imec engineer who founded Morrow with Jelle De Smet and is now company CEO, added: “We are extremely glad that Zeiss Ventures subscribes to our vision: to improve yours, by functionalizing eyeglasses.

“This unique partnership helps us to further roll out our product roadmap, and together with current shareholders, build out a common platform for electronic glasses.”

According to Morrow the autofocal glasses mimic the liquid lens of a human eye, with an active element added to the bottom of the progressive lens.

“This imitates a healthy eye lens and electronically enlarges the image by 0.75 Diopter,” explains the firm on its web site. “This boost limits the difference between the top and bottom part of the glass.”

The result, claims Morrow, is lower distortion and comfortable glasses for everyday use. “[It’s] like we're rejuvenating your sight by ten years,” says the company. “And with the push of a button you can read the smallest print.”

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