AR display-maker DigiLens lands $50 million from Samsung, Niantic

The broader AR market is made up of a lot of hype and excitement, but fundamentally it’s all based around the promise that waveguide displays can continue to stay wafer-thin while getting better and cheaper.

Waveguide-maker DigiLens is aiming to stay aggressive in lowering the costs of the expensive component. It has just closed a $50 million Series C led by Universal Display Corporation’s venture arm alongside Samsung Ventures. The company had previously disclosed that Pok√©mon GO-maker Niantic and Mitsubishi were making a strategic investment in this round. This brings the startup’s total funding to $85 million.

The Sunnyvale, Calif. startup most recently raised a $22 million round in early 2017, with investments from Foxconn, Sony and Panasonic.

Waveguide displays allow projected images to be “loaded” in from the side of a sheet of glass, thanks to etchings that bounce the light around to form a complete image in front of your eye. This is ideal for augmented reality, where you want as little hardware as possible directly in front of your eye. While optics that simply reflect an image onto a curved display are intensely cheaper, it’s going to take developments in waveguide tech to create consumer-friendly svelte designs that still showcase a high-definition image.

Aside from AR glasses, DigiLens is eyeing the automotive market as a market for its see-through displays.

In a statement, CEO Chris Pickett declared that his startup’s manufacturing process was building “the only waveguide that can get to a consumer price point.”

The startup will have to compete with major tech companies and other startups that are building their own technology. Magic Leap and Microsoft are designing their own waveguide displays for their latest AR headsets. Last year, Apple bought Akonia Holographics, a Denver startup building similar technology.