Smartglasses are the future of augmented reality, and Samsung is betting on waveguide maker DigiLens to emerge as a leader in the growing AR wearable industry.
On Tuesday, the company closed a $50 million Series C funding round that counts Samsung's venture arm and Pokémon GO maker Niantic among its investors.
Samsung Venture Investment Corp., along with UDC Ventures, joined the oversubscribed funding round, with Niantic, Continental AG, Sony Innovation Fund, Diamond Edge Ventures, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation, and others among the participants who had already committed funding in Nov. 2018.
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"UDC Ventures and Samsung Ventures have recognized through this investment that DigiLens is the frontrunner in waveguide technology and the only waveguide that can get to a consumer price point through its proprietary photopolymer, design software, and innovative manufacturing process," said Chris Pickett, DigiLens CEO, in a statement. "These partnerships provide the ecosystem that enables our technology to go into a variety of different display markets in a variety of different form factors."
Along with his company's investment, Steven V. Abramson, President and CEO of Universal Display Corporation, will serve as a board observer and advisor. In this role, he will lend his expertise in product development and OEM relationships.
"We are excited to partner with DigiLens as they continue to focus on enabling a number of high growth markets with their patented holographic waveguide displays," said Abramson. "With parallels to our own business, we look forward to working together to bring best-in-class solutions to multiple industries and to collaborate on the future of OLED technology within the augmented and virtual reality display sector."
The fresh injection of capital will help DigiLens further develop its waveguide technology, which includes the Crystal 25 reference design for smartglasses that display manufacturer Young Optics has licensed and recently began shipping to customers.
Among waveguide display makers vying to capitalize on augmented reality wearables, DigiLens stands as one of the better-funded startups, previously closing a $25 million Series C funding round in 2018 and a $22 million Series B round in 2017.
After participating in a $245 million funding round into Niantic earlier this year, the world's leading smartphone maker's investment deepens its ties with the mobile AR gaming pioneer, as both companies have taken an interest in the same waveguide maker. While Niantic's strategic investment in DigiLens and the smartglasses ecosystem expands the market for its games and its AR cloud platform, Samsung sees DigiLens as a potential supplier for its own AR wearables.
For now, Samsung and Niantic are happy to capitalize on the mobile AR world, but it's not too far-fetched to expect Samsung smartglasses outfitted with DigiLens waveguides displaying Niantic AR games in the foreseeable future.
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