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London Tech Week

AR glasses race: An ultra-compact laser beam scanner from a German startup nets $20M

OQmented funding
Image credits: OQmented

Technological research and consulting firm Gartner forecasts a booming demand for so-called head-mounted displays by 2026. Big tech companies like Apple, Google, Meta, and others are racing to accomplish consumer AR glasses that have the potential to replace smartphones. One such company is OQmented, a German startup specialising in developing advanced optical technologies for AR and VR applications.

Recently, OQmented secured $20 million in a Series A funding round from Sharp (Sharp Devices Europe), one of the world’s leading electronic device and display manufacturers that joined as a strategic investor alongside participation from existing investors – Salvia (that backed Finnish startup IQM Quantum Computers), Vsquared Ventures (that backed cylib and Isar Aerospace) and others.

Expansion plans

In an interaction with TFN, QOmented stated that they are now developing complete light engines, including MEMS, laser, electronics and software as plug&play solutions. They are also working on the continuous integration of their in-house developed ASICs for that light engine. First ASICs + MEMS successfully demonstrate power consumption as low as 10mW.

With this, the total funding raised by the company accounts for $37 million. OQmented uses the investment to finalise the development of the first plug&play light engines, establish its laser beam scanning (LBS) technology as a key enabler for first generations consumer AR glasses, extend the technology with additional features, and expand business development activities (including key hires in the US and intensifying business development in Asia).

Thomas von Wantoch, co-CEO and co-founder of OQmented said, “There is overwhelming demand for our product and we will use the Series A funds to accelerate getting our light engines ready for the market. We are excited that we gained Sharp as strategic investor with years of experience as one of the largest suppliers of displays and electronic devices.”

David Woodward, President of Sharp Devices Europe GmbH, commented, “We look forward to accelerating our cooperation with OQmented and to realizing the developing market of all-day wearable Augmented and Mixed Reality glasses, along with the many differentiated markets that will eventually benefit from the key technologies and innovations driven by OQmented.”

Ultra-compact LBS displays for AR/VR devices

Germany-based OQmented was founded by Ulrich Hofmann and Thomas von Wantoch in 2018, as a spin-off of Fraunhofer ISIT, with the goal of commercialising the technology he and his team had developed over more than two decades.

Both Ulrich and Thomas have worked with MEMS mirrors for different applications at the Fraunhofer ISIT. They recognised the great potential of this technology, especially for head-mounted displays and founded OQmented. Initially, the company offered customised MEMS mirrors for LBS-based applications ranging from LiDAR to AR glasses and later evolved into developing complete light engines, including electronics and laser sources.

Since its debut, the company has grown to a team of around 80 people with five offices globally and plans to expand in office and laboratory space.

OQmented enables tech companies and eyeglass manufacturers to build stylish all-day wearable Augmented or Mixed Reality glasses. The startup develops ultra-compact MEMS-based light engines using laser beam scanning. This technology offers several advantages over competitive approaches, including lower power consumption, smaller size, higher brightness & contrast, and superior display performance. All of these are requirements for lightweight consumer AR glasses, suitable for outdoor use.

OQmented’s ambition is to become the key enabler for consumer Augmented Reality glasses. It leverages the synergies of combining Sharp’s electronic device and display manufacturing expertise with OQmented’s unique IP and know-how in LBS-based micro-displays. The cooperation consolidates OQmented’s strategy to offer complete light engines as Plug and Play solutions, ready for integration.

OQmented supports two different kinds of AR glasses: AR smartglasses which are typically monocular with a field of view of up to 30° (2D information, sparse information such as chat messages) and fully immersive AR glasses with 3D information, binocular display with up to 100° FOV.

Smaller, more energy-efficient LBS systems

As per OQmented, its rivals include Bosch, STMicroelectronics, Microvision, Trilite and Infineon. The company claims that its LBS systems are better because they are smaller, more energy-efficient, and more robust and can be manufactured at a much lower cost than chips from the competitors.

They have everything to integrate the complete light engine under a single roof, from in-house developed ASICs to lasers to optics to MEMS mirrors. With this, they can achieve a manufactured size of only half a cubic centimeter for the projector.

OQmented has a patented wafer-level vacuum packaging technique, which helps achieve a smaller size. More importantly, this enables to manufacture large number of projectors on one wafer in parallel resulting in the cost-effective production of large quantities.

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