Leuven start-up works on a metaverse that is indistinguishable from reality

Leuven Swave Photonics, a new spin-off of Imec and VUB, has completed a first capital round of 7 million euros. The company enables holography that is visually indistinguishable from physical reality

Among the participating investors in the capital round are the venture capital fund Imec.xpand, the technology fund Flanders Future Techfund (FFTF) and the interuniversity seed and growth fund QBIC.

Among other things, the Leuven technology is relevant to the meta-verse, described by Swave as ‘a kind of 3D version of the Internet, where people are virtually connected to the environment, to objects and to each other.’



The holy grail of the metaverse are virtual 3D images, holographs, which can be seen with the naked eye.

Theodore Marescaux

CEO and co-founder of Swave Photonics

“We want to make sure that visualization is indistinguishable from reality,” said co-founder and CEO Theodore Marescaux. This is also the vision for Meta Platforms, the company over, among other things, Facebook. To make this a reality, however, difficult optical problems must be solved.

Pixels

Swave says it has a solution to these problems: Holographic eXtended Reality or HXR. ‘The holy grail of the metaverse are virtual 3D images, holographs, which can be seen with the naked eye. HXR enables it through billions of small, densely packed pixels, “says Marescaux. The small pixels enable the high resolution that corresponds to perfect human vision.

CEO Theodore Marescaux and COO Dmitri Choutov
© Swave Photonics

Swave offers versions with large chips, mainly holographic projectors, of two centimeters times two for advanced holographic display applications and 0.5 centimeters times 0.5 versions for ultralight portable devices.

Markets

The main markets for chips are the traditional projector market and the augmented reality world. The latter also includes the major players in virtual and augmented reality such as Meta, Google and Microsoft. They can use Swave’s technology for next generations of headsets. They then offer a viewing experience with very high resolution, depth of field and viewing angles of 180 to 360 degrees.

The applications are wider than the headset. For example, walls can contain holographic projectors or standalone 3D monitors.



We want to ensure that visualization is indistinguishable from reality.

Theodore Marescaux

CEO and co-founder of Swave Photonics

Potential customers can test the product within two years, and mass production can follow six to nine months later. European players are being looked at for that production, in line with the European goal of becoming more independent for chip production, says co-founder and COO Dmitri Choutov. He works from Sunnyvale, California, where Apple and other companies in the chip sector are located. The response from the big tech companies is said to be enthusiastic.

Swave employs about six people, but a number of vacancies are being launched quickly. “Within five years, thousands of people could be employed across the entire supply chain, with about 90 to a few hundred of them at Swave itself,” says Choutov.

Patents

“This is a highly innovative technology that we have been developing at Imec for more than five years,” said Luc Van den Hove, Imec’s CEO. Swave has a comprehensive collection of patents that help explain investors’ interest.



Within five years, thousands of people could be employed across the entire supply chain.

Dmitri Choutov

COO and co-founder of Swave Photonics

“We are confident that Swave will address the challenges of augmented and virtual reality, enabling it to serve the $ 93 billion metaverse market,” said Peter Vanbekbergen, partner at Imec.xpand, an independent venture capital firm working closely with imec. The Imec.xpand 2 fund, of which Swave is the first investment, has EUR 200 million in committed capital and is ‘well on its way to becoming one of the largest early technology funds in Europe’.

The Flemish government fund Flanders Future Technology Fund (FFTF) is also investing. Flemish Minister of Economy and Innovation Jo Brouns (CD&V) welcomes Swave, which he believes is part of a growing group of companies that put Flanders on the world map of the deep-tech industry, which offers answers to complex problems. ‘FFTF’s mission is to accelerate the introduction of the groundbreaking technologies developed by our knowledge centers into the market. That’s exactly what we’re doing with this investment in Swave. ‘

The company promises more capital rounds and will within a year bring more news about this.

The essence

  • Swave Photonics is a spin-off of Imec and VUB, which raised 7 million in a first capital operation.
  • The company makes holographic projectors on a chip with billions of small, tightly packed pixels. This makes perfect visualization possible.
  • The main markets are traditional projector manufacturers and companies in the virtual and augmented reality sector.
  • The technology can be used for headsets, but it can also be used to create holographic walls.

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