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MICROOLED secures €21M to take the lead in ‘light AR’

A studio photo of MICROOLED CEO, Eric Marcellin-Dibon
Image credit: MICROOLED

MICROOLED, a manufacturer of high-resolution, low-power, OLED microdisplays, has announced a €21 million fundraising round. The round was led by Jolt Capital, who specialise in responsible deeptech companies, with investment from the French sovereign wealth fund, Bpifrance, through its Innovation Defense vehicle. Ventech and Cipio Partners, who had invested in MICROOLED’s €8 million 2020 Series A funding round, also participated. The investment will fund the development of Grenoble-based MICROOLED’s next range of products and expand their manufacturing capacity ready to take advantage of the rapidly growing AR field.

The challenging growth of augmented reality

Augmented reality has been moving into the mainstream. However, it has arguably been held back by technology that is not quite ready for the aspirations most people have. So while everyone will be familiar with augmented reality on their phones and tablets, placing digital objects alongside real-life on their screens, attempts at incorporating them into wearables have not been as successful. From Google Glass to Apple Vision Pro, the designs represent compromises made to accommodate technology powerful enough for the purpose, battery capacity, and comfort. MICROOLED’s technology promises to break through those obstacles.

MICROOLED are one of just a handful of manufacturers able to produce microdisplays that can allow augmented reality glasses to look more like glasses. Using OLED displays, MICROOLED’s products are low-energy, drawing as little as one milliwatt of power, reducing the need for heavy batteries, while still offering a high-resolution and high-contrast display. The displays can range in size from around 5 mm to 15 mm, making them suitable for heads-up displays in anything for recreational and consumer products, to use in security and industrial settings.

A rapidly growing sector

Although it’s over ten years since Google Glass became the first major venture into wearable augmented reality, more recent product launches are predicted to drive rapid growth. Products like Meta’s Oculus virtual-reality headset and Apple’s Vision Pro mixed-reality headset are fuelling the acceptance of similar devices.

A 2022 report by KBV Research suggests the microdisplay market could reach $4 billion by 2027, with 10% of that captured by OLED devices. A separate report by CCS Insight suggests that by 2027, the global AR smart glasses market could see 15 million units shipped annually.

Jolt Ventures’ Managing Partner Pierre Garnier noted the potential for MICROOLED to capitalise on this growth. “MICROOLED is the archetypal growth deeptech company,” he said, adding that they benefited from, “a genuine potential to build manufacturing capacity in Europe, a series of fast-growing B2B markets, and powerful but energy-frugal products.”

MICROOLED have, since 2007, been granted over 170 patents, and work closely with their neighbour, research institute CEA-Leti, to develop new technologies. It places them perfectly to become market leaders in wearable, lightweight HUD applications.

Looking to AR’s future

MICROOLED will use the investment to take advantage of their position. They plan to grow their international sales teams, particularly in the security sector and their business-to-business sales with their ActiveLook platform. They will also be increasing their manufacturing capacity at their Grenoble base. And further investment will be made in their products, funding the development of their next generation of colour, high-luminance OLD solutions.

The prospect means that people may soon be seeing their work, or even their world, with a MICROOLED microdisplay providing them with real-time information. “Innovation is at the heart of our strategy,” said Eric Macellin-Dibon, MICROOLED’s CEO, “and this new funding will allow us to double down on our efforts to bring to market the most disruptive technologies in the field of AR.”

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