“We are working on a first in augmented reality glasses”

#working #augmented #reality #glasses

If augmented reality glasses become a top consumer electronics product in the future, it may be in part thanks to two Flemish companies.

Every day we are glued to all kinds of screensof which, without us always realizing, the the underlying technology is constantly improving. After the LED, the OLED settled. And now it’s the turn of the microLED to make its entrance.

This latest development is accompanied by a greater efficiency power, higher peak luminosity, sub-microsecond response time, good resistance to temperature variations, and long life.

As its name suggests, the microLED touches the order of the microscopic. We are talking here about a micrometer, or a thousandth of a millimeter, where the scale of the LED was still calculated in millimeters.

“If you think of the ring that surrounds the city center of Leuven as the size of a pixel on a screen of the technology at hand, we work at the scale of our meeting room table,” smiles Alexander Mityashin, co – founder of Micledi Microdisplays.

Micledi bets on the development of small screens equipped with microLEDs. the spin-off of the Leuven research center microelectronics specialist imec, world famous, the particular fact of augmented reality glasses (called “AR” for “augmented reality”), or these glasses that add a digital layer to the real world through an interposed screen. The number of applications, professional or leisure, is almost endless.

However, products like Microsoft’s HoloLens are still in their infancy, and right now, they’re more like headsets. “We can compare them with the first mobile phones from more than 20 years ago,” continues the doctor of electronics from KU Leuven. “Display modules take up a lot of space, image quality and power consumption are far from ideal. MicroLED technology can be a game changer and enable the next generation of glasses.”

blue, red and green

For image quality, a good color palette is important. The combination of microdiodes that emit blue light and a special material to convert the colors red and green (with red, green and blue being the basic colors of light) makes it possible to obtain high-performance multi-color displays. This is where quantum dots come in, the workhorse of QustomDot, a Ghent University spin-off this time. and partner of Micledi Microdisplays.


millions of euros

Micledi Microdisplays and QustomDots benefit from €1.7 million in aid from the Flemish government for their collaboration.

The thumbnail is also appropriate here. Quantum dots (or boxes), as they are called, are based on nanoscale semiconductors. “We are talking about 4 to 8 nanometers (one billionth of a meter, editor’s note)”, explains Kim De Nolf, CEO and founder of the start-up specializing in advanced materials QustomDot. She talks about it like a great advance that, combined with microLEDs, considerably improves the situation.

So obviously the two Belgian spin-offs are not the only ones. have understood the interest of these two advances. Giants like Samsung or Sony have even already launched quantum dot televisions. But there is a differentiating factor to be noted.. Micledi, which employs 15 people, about the same number as QustomDot, and several dozen people at Imec, you can trust the Mecca of technology that is the saying Imec. He is one of the few centers in the world where you can do extensive work and test these technologies.

But that is not all. “We are also the only company in the world that manufactures microLEDs on a 300-millimeter wafer (silicon disc from which the chips are extracted) platform,” specifies Alexander Mityashin. This is important because this is the latest and greatest version for microprocessor manufacturing. We can make microblades in such a way that they blend well with quantum dots. The way we do it is even a world first.”

no harmful substance

As for the Ghent quantum dots, based on a university invention, they also stand out from the competition. In fact, they are made without the harmful substances of cadmium, lead, or mercury, are produced more efficiently, last longer, and are custom built for each customer.

Kim De Nolf considers the result of these two advances as the basis for the screens of tomorrow. Then Why focus only on augmented reality glasses? “If we can theoretically combine technologies for any type of display, I think AR glasses have the greatest potential.”

“We see them as a consumer product that many people will end up using, in the same way that they use a smartphone today”, Alexander Mityashin abounds. “All the big players, like Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, are working on augmented reality glasses, which they consider the next wave of consumer electronics . We estimate that it will take another five years or so to come up with a product that allows this: compact lenses with good screens, long battery life and a relatively low price.”

“It will take another five years or so to see truly mainstream augmented reality glasses emerge.”

Alexander Mityashin

Co-founder of Micledi Microdisplays

But the two companies, which benefit from 1.7 million euros in aid from the Flemish government for their collaboration, will not wait that long. At the end of this year, they plan to unpack the first simplified prototypes. These will then be followed by others, increasingly complex, that approach the final product. Micledi and QustomDot point to a true pilot project in mid-2024.

Looking for 33 million

Both Micledi Microdisplays and QustomDot need fresh capital: Micledi is targeting €25m, QustomDot around €8m.

On the occasion of a first round, Micledi has already signed for the largest amount: 11.5 million compared to 3.6 million for QustomDot.

For the new one coming to light, the two companies will first turn to their historical investors. PMV agrees to support both. Micledi also involves the financial arm of the state, SFPI, Imec.xpand and KBC Focus Fund, while QustomDot includes Poland’s Qbic and Vigo Ventures. Micledi is also planning to welcome a strategic player in the capital, such as a manufacturer.

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