Ostendo, an advanced display technology company, has raised over $ 200M to develop a new type of high-resolution see-through display and optics system for AR devices, which they call Quantum Photonic Imaging (QPI) technology. Founded in 2005, Ostendo recently unveiled a reference design capable of a 150-degree field of view, nearly three times that of the Microsoft HoloLens. “We are taking a different approach to creating a bigger field of view,” says co-founder and CEO, Dr. Hussein El-Ghoroury. “With our technology, we can tile multiple QPI displays right against the edge of the lens, while still keeping the glasses small and lightweight.”
“The major players are spending billions of dollars a year to create the next great wave of personal computing…and they’re falling short,” explained Jason McDowall, Ostendo’s VP of Visual Experience. “The key missing ingredient is a new type of display, a new way of generating and controlling light, and then redirecting that light into your eyes while still allowing you to see an unobstructed view of the real world.”
To better appreciate the challenge Ostendo is addressing, think about the display you’re using to read this article. Here electricity is converted into light and broken into red, green, and blue sub-pixels, which can be turned on and off using some mechanism, such as liquid crystals. However, with see-through AR glasses, you don’t look directly at the screen. You look through a clear lens at the real world. The display sits somewhere off to the side, and the image needs to be channeled through that lens into your eyes. As Microsoft and others have shown, it’s extremely difficult to do this well in a head-worn device, even when that device weighs more than a pound.
Building a new type of display is only part of the solution-see-through optics are needed too. “There are easier optics approaches like ODG/NReal that work for dim displays, but those have fundamental physics limitations for miniaturizing further,” explained Niantic’s Ross Finman. “There are other optics companies out there like Lumus or LetinAR for example that could work with Ostendo. For Ostendo, they give up brightness, for potential higher resolution and Red, Green, Blue color. Other more traditional MicroLED approaches give up some resolution and color (cannot do Red or even Blue well yet).” Finman notes that bringing new display technology to market is difficult. “Understand that anything in MicroLED today is R&D.”
Ostendo plans to make their own optics to work with their displays. Paramount Pictures’ Futurist Ted Schilowitz is so excited by Ostendo’s Quantum Photonic Imaging technology he took an equity stake in the company and joined the advisory board. “Ostendo has created something I believe is unique and groundbreaking that will help propel mixed reality devices past the super early adopter and experimental stage they are at now. The extremely small size, fidelity, and pixel pitch of the fully integrated RGB chipset allows for glasses that have the form factor, weight, and viability to make a mass-market product with a very wide field of view at an extraordinarily small size. I’m keeping very close tabs on what Ostendo is developing and have confidence they have taken the right approach to solving the problem of how to make MR glasses look and feel like glasses vs. a clunky, bulky tech device”
“What sets Ostendo apart is not just that we’ve created a new type of full-color display with tiny pixels,” explains Dr. El-Ghoroury. “We are also able to control and condition the photons in such a way that we don’t need many of the components required by others. That’s how we’re able to achieve an unprecedented field of view in such a small pair of glasses,” he continues. “The QPI display is ready for production and we’ve begun to engage several prospective customers.”
Like Intel for the PC era, Ostendo sees themselves as a key enabler for other companies to make wearable glasses. But don’t expect to buy a pair in 2020. That said, Ostendo has demonstrated the first major step to creating a device with 150° FOV in a pair of consumer-grade glasses.
Ostendo is backed by Third Wave Ventures and its prominent Limited Partner base including the family offices of LeFrak, Pinault, Wolfen, and Williams, as well as Phillip Sarofim and David Falk.