Automotive ‘holographic’ AR maker WayRay raises $80M from Porsche and Hyundai
WayRay SA, a maker of holographic augmented reality for cars, today announced a new late-stage $80 million investment from Porsche, Hyundai Motor Group, Alibaba Group, China Merchants Capital, JVCKenwood Corp. and Consortium of Sovereign Wealth Funds.
Zurich-based WayRay produces AR products for cars that operate by projecting “holographic” effects onto the windows around a vehicle. Most importantly, this information can be displayed on the windshield of a car.
With this technology, it’s possible to project to-scale “floating” information such as speed, gauges and other virtual objects without the need for the usual headgear associated with AR products.
For example, semitransparent guide markers and direction indicators could appear situated on the road ahead matching the speed of the car, designed to be part of an onboard navigation system. As a result, the driver would not need to look down at any extra screen, smartphone or dashboard device, in order to get an at-a-glance understanding of the distance to a destination or the next turn.
Part of WayRay’s claimed competitive advantage is the company’s focus on working with automotive makers and designers to integrate such systems with upcoming cars.
The company also makes products that can be customized to be fitted into many different types of vehicles with aftermarket solutions for both drivers and passengers.
“As a deep-tech company, we are committed to creating fundamental innovations that bring us far beyond holographic AR displays and new interfaces,” said Vitaly Ponomarev, chief executive of WayRay. “A growing number of projects with carmakers and strong investors are fueling the company’s growth and boosting our confidence in implementing complex innovations.”
Porsche, now an investor in WayRay, first partnered with the company earlier this year in February for a pilot program to produce AR products for its cars during Startup Autobahn 2018, a premier conference for demonstrating innovations in the automotive industry.
Lutz Meschke, deputy chairman of the Executive Board at Porsche, said that the company chose WayRay as a partner and investment opportunity because “the WayRay team has unique expertise with a solid background in space engineering, hardware and software development.”
“We are convinced that on this basis we’ll be able to offer our clients customized Porsche solutions,” Lutz said, speaking to the potential future of customized AR interfaces for its luxury cars. “That is why we have made this strategic investment decision.”
Although Hyundai Motor also invested in WayRay for its automotive AR technology, as it could be built into the automaker’s cars, but also because of applications for smart buildings.
“The Hyundai-WayRay collaboration will help us establish a brand-new eco-system that harnesses AR technology to enhance not only navigation systems but establish an AR platform for smart cities and smart buildings,” said Youngcho Chi, executive vice president of Hyundai Motor.
It’s clear that WayRay’s AR technology, although currently automotive in focus, could pave the way for domestic, urban and commercial solutions that also use glass and windows to project useful information. Although windows are great for providing an environment-proof way to see through walls, they’re also a blank canvas that could be put to other uses.
The Series C investment brings the total raised by WayRay since its launch in 2012 to $108 million. Company executives also said in a press release that the company aims to reach $1 billion in valuation, making it a so-called unicorn, by the end of 2019.
WayRay plans to use the funds to establish an affiliate with a pilot production line in Germany. Also, the investments will be used to further bolster the company’s portfolio of AR technologies and expand capabilities with AR smart glass for applications in smart homes and for the construction industry.
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