Though content creators in the augmented reality space are still struggling to find engaging use cases for early mobile augmented reality platforms, there is still a feverish amount of excitement inside the space from big tech companies and makers of key components that are plugging along in developing technologies that will enable consumer AR headsets.
One such startup, augmented reality display manufacturer DigiLens, announced today that they have raised $25 million of a Series C round from automotive parts manufacturing giant Continental.
DigiLens manufactures “waveguide displays,” which have been in use for a while but are pretty much the best technology available for making AR headset displays. While VR headset manufacturers are able to use conventional LCD or OLED displays to render an entirely new world while perhaps relying on passthrough feeds from cameras to simulate “mixed reality” environments, hardware manufacturers interested in making glasses-like AR headsets that aren’t incredibly ugly have had to rely on waveguides, which reflect light that is shined into the edge of a sheet of glass and bounced around inside by reflective elements before being shined directly into a user’s eyes. It’s all a bit more complicated than that, but importantly it allows for a mostly transparent screen that users can gaze through to see what’s going on in the real world.
What distinguishes DigiLens is that their manufacturing process relies on them “printing” these reflective elements directly onto the sheets of glass, a feature the company says helps them keep costs lower than its competitors.
Though Sunnyvale-based DigiLens has perhaps gotten the most press for its work on miniature waveguide displays perfect for the first generation of augmented reality headsets, like many other display makers in that space they’ve found more immediate opportunity in making heads-up displays for cars and motorcycle helmets. This significant investment from Continental now pins the company’s equity stake in DigiLens at 18 percent, the company tells me.
DigiLens has raised $60 million in funding to date from investors, including Sony and Foxconn according to Crunchbase.