HTC jumps onto the augmented reality bandwagon by investing in Lumus

Augmented reality (AR) display maker Lumus Ltd. said on Monday that it raised $30 million in funding from a group of investors including Quanta Computer and HTC. This cash will be bundled with the $15 million in funding it received from investment firm Shanda Group and Chinese photo-electric component maker Crystal-Optech during the summer to create a $45 million Series C investment round.

Based in Israel, Lumus was founded in 2000 by Yaakov Amitai to bring his patented Light-Guide Optical Element (LOE) to the market. This technology was converted into Optical Engine modules for transparent displays to be worn over the eyes. More specifically, these displays are meant for eyeglasses that look like standard glasses, but instead mixes digital and physical worlds together.

The company’s Lumus Optical Engine consists of the LOE, an embedded ultrathin lens, a micro display, and a miniature projector. This combination, according to Lumus, provides high-resolution, full-color imagery in the wearer’s view. The technology has progressed to the point that it can be used in standard glasses for a comfortable fit without feeling bulky and heavy.

Lumus started out serving up its Optical Engine platform for solutions used in the military along with the medical, aviation, and manufacturing logistics industries. The company is now expanding into the consumer and enterprise markets, and currently provides two development kits: the DK-50 and the DK-40.

The DK-50 developer kit provides a 720p resolution, a 40-degree field of view, and two 4MP cameras, and is powered by an on-board Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running Android. The smaller DK-40 kit has a VGA resolution, a 23-degree field of view, one 5MP camera, and is powered by an on-board OMAP processor running Android.

“This new funding will help Lumus continue to scale up our R&D and production in response to the growing demand from companies creating new augmented reality and mixed reality applications, including consumer electronics and smart eyeglasses,” says Lumus CEO Ben Weinberger. “We also plan to ramp up our marketing efforts in order to realize and capture the tremendous potential of our unique technology to re-envision reality in the booming AR industry.”

David Chang, chief operating officer of HTC, said that HTC is very committed to the AR and VR industries, and that its investment in Lumus is the company’s “natural extension” into augmented reality. The investment seemingly confirms that HTC plans to offer AR solutions to the general consumer just as it has with the Vive headset for virtual reality.

HTC released the Vive earlier this year at a hefty $800. It’s backed by the SteamVR platform developed by Valve Software, the developer responsible for a number of AAA games and the Steam digital distribution platform. The HTC Vive bundle includes two motion controllers and two “lighthouses” that track the user’s physical movements. The minimum system requirements include an Intel Core i5-4590 processor, a Nvidia Geforce GTX  970 graphics chip, 4GB of system memory, and more.

Quanta Computer, the other investor in the $30 million funding, builds notebooks, servers, industrial computers, and other internet-connected devices. C.C. Leung, vice chairman and president of Quanta, said that AR/VR is “well aligned” with the company’s growth strategy. Lumus is expected to become “an innovator and industry leader” regarding transparent optical displays in the overall AR market, he added.