The DeepOptics team is well on their way to creating an optical device with the potential to disrupt how we see the world
Optical technology innovators DeepOptics announced on Monday the closing of their Series A funding round, bringing $4 million into focus in new financing. Taking part in the round were ophthalmic optical leaders Essilor, Taiwan’s Atomic 14 Ventures, and a number of private investors that included their initial funder and partner, Saar Wilf.
The company was co-founded in 2011 by CEO Yariv Haddad, CTO Yoav Yadin, and Chief Scientist Alex Alon. Wilf joined the founders at the outset, helping to lead the project forward alongside them. DeepOptics’ seven member-team is based in Petach Tikvah, with an eighth member stationed in Silicon Valley in charge of their business development.
While still very much in the development stage, the DeepOptics team is well on their way to creating an optical device with the potential to disrupt how we see the world.
The product that they are developing is a system that uses sensors to gauge the distance that the user is attempting to view, and adjusts the lenses accordingly to bring the object into focus. It accomplishes this by sending electronic volts into the three layered liquid crystal lenses, changing the refractive index in the lense to allow the lense to provide the specific optical compensation needed to bring the world into focus in every situation.
“Our eye can focus automatically on objects of different distances. When we get older, this ability degrades and we need some additional help” Haddad tells Geektime, explaining the need for bifocals for seeing near and far. Part of the problem currently facing the users of glasses is that their vision can change over time, meaning that they need to get new prescriptions. While this device may not help for drastic shifts in vision, Haddad says that their ability to alter the composition of the lenses according to the wearer’s needs can help cut down on the need to switch out sets of glasses for more moderate updates to the user’s changing needs.
Integration with augmented and virtual reality
Beyond the significant changes that DeepOptics is looking to have on the field of regular vision, their technology has the potential to impact the development of AR and VR in becoming far more viable products.
“We’re in contact with many of the VR and AR companies,” Haddad tells Geektime. “This technology is very relevant to both these systems.”
“What you want to do with an AR or VR device is make the viewer believe that the object is at a desired distance, not necessarily where it is.” He explains that his company’s technology will play a crucial role in making these altered reality devices more usable for the public, solving some of the bugs that have come up in the development. “You need to apply some kind of optics to achieve this. They currently don’t have this kind of technology, relying on stereoscopic 3D which tricks the brain into believing that the object is at a certain distance. This is one signal that the brain gets. The other is the optical signal. These two signals help the brain to determine the distance of the the virtual object. They are currently not in sync in these systems because one of them is constantly changing with the distance of the object, while the other is signaling a fixed distance according to the optical distance of the lense. What needs to be done is sync these two signals and to dynamically change the optical signal according to the object distance. For this, you need a dynamic lens that can alter its focal length.“
Solving the problem of crisscrossed signals is an important step in both making the altered image more believable for the brain, as well as cutting down on the motion sickness that has been associated with these devices.
Looking to the future
Haddad tells Geektime that while they have working prototypes of the lenses and sensors, they have not yet compiled a full working prototype, a goal which they hope to achieve over the next two years with the help of the new funding. He adds that it would likely take an additional year after that to reach production capacity, meaning that we probably will not see their device in the near future.
The new money does mean that the team is looking to grow, with Haddad saying that he expects to add another three to four new members.
As a writer on the topics of VR and AR, I am very excited about how this company’s technology may have brought us another step closer to making their integration into our day-to-day lives a reality. This field is heating up, with substantial funds behind it for smart solutions. Companies like Magic Leap have reached massive valuations ($4.5 billion) for their AR tech, and VR is starting to gain traction with the launch of systems like Facebook’s Oculus. Hopefully some of this cash will trickle down to the companies like DeepOptics that are building the essential base tools to improve the devices.
According to the current design, Haddad says that the battery on the device will hopefully be able to run for one or two days before needing to be recharged. This can be a somewhat disconcerting thought that a user’s vision would be dependent on their glasses holding a charge, but should not be a huge factor in deciding to buy this product. The smartphone industry should be so lucky to run that long with the same amount of use, and charging devices has become a new standard.
The DeepOptics team has developed something truly beautiful with this project, bringing intricate technology to bear on a need that affects millions around the globe. While not kidding ourselves that this device will be making its way to the masses in the near term after its release, it is launching the industry in new and interesting directions, creating a vision for the future of ophthalmology.