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Vuzix to develop augmented reality headgear for aerospace client

18 Sep 2018

Initial $250k deal with 'top-tier' partner for waveguide-based head-mounted display; WaveOptics opens US headquarters.

Vuzix, the Rochester-headquartered provider of augmented reality (AR) glasses based around waveguide optics, says it has signed a development deal with a major player in the aerospace industry.

The agreement, worth an initial $250,000 but expected to result in follow-on orders once the development work is completed in the next couple of months, will see Vuzix build a “customized commercial avionics waveguide-based head-mounted display (HMD) system”.

The firm announced: “Subject to a final approval and acceptance from the customer of the first phase, Vuzix expects to receive follow-on orders from this customer to finalize the product's development and hard tooling necessary to ultimately deliver commercial volumes of the custom waveguide systems as early as the second of half of 2019 for this customer's commercial avionics solution.”

CEO Paul Travers also claimed in a company announcement that the deal demonstrated Vuzix’s leading position in waveguide optics, as well as the firm’s ability to leverage that technology. The approach is based on etching transparent waveguides into the lenses of the smart glasses, said to yield superior viewing compared with projection methods used in, for example, Google Glass.

Consumer launch
While the company’s commercial range of smart glasses and wrap-around “video headphones” have won plaudits from some reviewers, Vuzix is yet to translate that into a profitable business.

In its latest financial results, for the three months ending June 30, sales doubled year-on-year to $2.7 million – but similarly sharp increases in research and development, sales and administrative costs saw the firm’s operating loss widen to $6.1 million, from $4 million a year earlier.

That increase in research spending was due in part to Vuzix launching its “Blade” smart glasses, for which Travers says he believes there is “strong pent-up demand” from developers.

“Furthermore, the much-anticipated public general commercial launch of Vuzix Blade is rapidly approaching,” the CEO added last month. “We are expecting to deliver significantly more revenue in the second half of 2018, driven by expanding commercial and enterprise smart glasses deployments, pilot conversions, and broad volume shipments of the Vuzix Blade to developers, enterprise customers, and consumers.”

Among Vuzix’s existing blue-chip OEM customer base is Japan’s Toshiba, for which the US firm provides Windows-based smart glasses.

Back in 2015, chip giant Intel acquired a 30 per cent equity stake in Vuzix when it invested $25 million in dividend-yielding series A preferred stock.

And in January this year, Vuzix bolstered its balance sheet with a public offering of stock that raised $28 million. As of June 30, the company held $29.2 million in cash and equivalent assets.

WaveOptics expands in US
Meanwhile UK-based diffractive waveguide developer WaveOptics has opened a new office in Los Angeles, from where it will provide technical support for its growing US customer base.

At the core of the company’s technology is a novel design of waveguide that is said to harness hologram physics and photonic crystals, enabling lightweight design and “unrivaled” optical performance.

WaveOptics CEO David Hayes said of the Los Angeles expansion: “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.”

The company, whose early investors include the London-listed IP Group, has in recent months established relationships with equipment firms Optics Balzers and EV Group, and says it aims to be “production-ready” by the end of this year.

In July 2017 WaveOptics raised £12 million in a series B venture funding round featuring investors Touchstone, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Octopus Investments and Gobi Ventures.

Corporate video: WaveOptics’ chief scientist Salim Valera explains the company’s technology:

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