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WaveOptics and Corning sign long-term supply deal for AR optics

13 Dec 2018

UK startup WaveOptics has also closed a $26M round of venture funding to support expansion into burgeoning market for augmented reality hardware.

WaveOptics, the UK startup company specializing in diffractive waveguide optics for applications in augmented reality (AR) technology, has signed a long-term supply deal with leading US glass manufacturer Corning.

Under the terms of the deal, which should improve the image quality and apparent “reality” experienced by users wearing AR headsets, Corning will provide WaveOptics with ultra-flat, high-index glass wafers.

Diffractive waveguides are seen by many as the key optical component needed to improve image quality in AR wearable devices, helping to overcome nausea-inducing effects caused by fast-moving images.

WaveOptics’ proprietary nanostructures will be imprinted on Corning’s glass wafers and made into waveguides using a well-defined manufacturing process.

As part of the agreement, Corning will also support the UK firm with its materials science expertise, with the aim of making further advances in waveguide technology and production.

Venture round lands $26M
News of the deal comes just two days after WaveOptics said it had raised $26 million in the first tranche of a series C round of venture financing led by Octopus Ventures, and supported by the likes of Robert Bosch, Shenzhen-based device maker Goertek, and the Hong Kong venture fund Optimas Capital.

In a busy year for the startup, the latest developments follow earlier agreements with equipment firms Optics Balzers and EV Group, a waveguide manufacturing deal with investor Goertek, and the establishment of offices in California and Taipei. Next year WaveOptics is looking to expand further, with a new site in Beijing.

Commenting on the Corning agreement, WaveOptics’ CEO David Hayes said: “Our waveguides meet a demanding technical specification that provides a comfortable viewing experience with crisp imagery, displayed over a wide instantaneous field of view. Corning’s high-index glass has the characteristics that we need to enable the superior optical performance of our waveguide technology.”

David Velasquez, Corning’s divisional VP for precision glass solutions, added: “We believe that waveguide-based AR devices offer the best combination of user experience and sleek designs today.

“We’re excited to work with WaveOptics to enable attractive, high-quality AR wearables, which will be key to increased adoption of this technology. We are excited about the opportunity to support their drive toward a high-volume supply chain.”

The UK firm says that its patented waveguide technology allows the creation of a large viewing window in which to experience AR, providing immersive AR experiences for industrial, enterprise, and consumer applications.

'Surge of interest'
The $26 million it has just raised will be used to scale business operations internationally, with the Corning deal providing evidence of the large-volume manufacturing supply chain WaveOptics is aiming to put in place to meet customer demand from Asia and US markets.

Claiming that the initial series C investment represented the largest AR hardware fundraising action in Europe this year, WaveOptics adds that it is already in advanced discussions with potential new shareholders and strategic partners regarding participation in a second stage.

“The market is gathering pace, with AR wearables expected to become available in volume by the end of 2019,” Hayes said. “We have seen a recent surge in interest from potential shareholders and strategic partners and anticipate closing further funding in the coming months.”

• Augmented, virtual and mixed reality (AR/VR/MR) technologies will be a major technology theme at the forthcoming SPIE Photonics West event, taking place in San Francisco, California, in early February.

The dedicated two-day AR VR MR Conference, running 3-4 February, will feature invited talks from several of the sector’s major players – including the likes of Google, Oculus, and Intel - alongside live technology demonstrations, a student design challenge, and a course from Microsoft Hololens guru Bernard Kress.

For full details of the second annual AR MR VR Conference and how to attend, visit SPIE’s dedicated web page.

Corning corporate video - optics for AR applications:

InfraTec GmbHSynopsys, Optical Solutions GroupAUREA TECHNOLOGYEdmund OpticsKentek Corporationart Photonics GmbHBoston Electronics Corporation
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