Tom Ffiske spoke with Sumanta Talukdar, CEO & Cofounder of WaveOptics.
Hey, it’s great to speak to you!
So tell me, who is WaveOptics?
WaveOptics is a young company working in the field of Augmented Reality. We focus on the see-through display technology required to make augmented reality wearable. We are already establishing considerable industry traction as our waveguides are enabling superior image quality in a scalable way. We are form factor neutral, meaning that we work with partner companies who are interested in producing quality AR head worn devices across multiple industries. Our aim is for our waveguides to be the essential ingredient in every pair of augmented reality glasses or headsets produced!
Ah, so you operate in the AR space? How does WaveOptics fit within it?
WaveOptics is a very important part of the AR ecosystem. Augmented Reality is a very young technology which means there is a lot of work to be done to make the technology fit for purpose across industries and, eventually, for consumers too. Our aim at WaveOptics is to be the experts in AR display technology so that whenever a need for AR is identified, or a solution designed, WaveOptics will have the waveguides best suited to that solution.
What’s a key thing you had learnt? What issues did you come across?
When we started out, the environment was very different to today, and one of the main challenges was to convince people that Augmented Reality is going to be an important and transformative technology and that it is worthy of investment. That is changing now as more people know about and understand AR, and its potential for improving processes in different industries is better understood. Likewise, commentators and analysts are beginning to get excited about AR for consumers, supported by the interest from companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple.
WaveOptics was started with a mission to bring experiences which the founders knew were possible with AR in the defence industry, outside of defence and into the enterprise and consumer world. At the time AR was very expensive and time consuming, which is why it was only available in defence. The goal was to achieve the same sort of user experience but in a way in which people would actually want to wear it. We also needed to find a way to develop the technology in a scalable fashion and at a price point that consumers and enterprise could absorb. We therefore started by asking, “How do we make the physics answer all of these questions?”
What are your thoughts on the UK AR scene?
There are a surprising number of companies doing some amazing work on AR in the UK. As AR is such a young technology, there is a lot of responsibility on all of us to help to build the AR ecosystem, to work together to help improve understanding of the technology and to grow the technology into something which is appealing to consumers and eventually becomes mass market. We work with a lot of other companies both within AR, but also those who want to adopt AR in their businesses. A lot of these companies might never directly be customers of WaveOptics but at this stage, whilst the potential of AR is still not realised, we all have a duty to work together to promote the technology as a whole.
What particular insights do you have on AR?
There is little doubt that AR is going to be the next big technology story. The possible applications are endless across both industry and consumer technology. The big challenge is to get AR to a form factor where it becomes wearable and therefore immersive. This challenge is perhaps easier in industries where helmets and headsets are the norm, but becomes more challenging in the consumer world where the design needs to be acceptable to the person walking down the street. WaveOptics are working to solve that problem so that in a few years, when over a billion people are projected to be consuming AR, they will be viewing it through our display technology.
And how do you think VR/AR/MR will develop in the future?
We are absolutely at the beginning of the road for understanding all the possible applications of VR, AR and MR. There is little doubt that we cannot even begin to envisage the full implications of these technologies on our daily lives in years to come. The potent combination of AR glasses combined with the computing power that we all already carry in our pockets in the form of a smartphone is mind boggling. When that solution also looks ‘cool’ and wearable, which is probably only a few years away, then the way in which we all interact with the world around us could change forever.
Thanks for the discussion!
Thank you – great catching up with you.