Porsche and Hyundai behind AR hologram company's $80M raise

Forget headsets. The future of AR/VR is in seamless integrations with in-demand consumer products.

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WayRay, a Zurich-based AR company that makes holograms to augment driving, just closed an $80M C-round. The fundraising was led by Porsche and included Hyundai and Alibaba Group.

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That brings the seven-year-old company's total funding to over $100M on a $500M valuation. The company is actually calling its shot with a projected $1B valuation by 2019.

WayRay's technology is the closest melding of video games and on-road driving I've seen. If that's a frightening prospect, you can take some comfort in the fact that safety is one of its primary pitches.

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In essence, WayRay's projector, which is smaller than most aftermarket heads up display (HUD) units, turns the entire windshield into an AR hologram. Standard instrument information, such as MPG and speed, are of course displayed, but the system also reads roads and highlights lanes with Tron-like lighting, projects navigation maps and instructions, and issues warnings about potential hazards, such as pedestrians.

It's a philosophy of technology integration in an AR ecosystem often focused on paradigm-shifting releases. Much of the lackluster adoption of AR/VR to date can be attributed to the way technology developers have tried to pitch novel new systems. Adoption is likelier to happen as mixed reality technologies integrate into existing consumer experiences.

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In fact, the thing that's so surprising about WayRay's tech, and likely the reason it's getting the vote of confidence from legacy automotive players, is that it integrates seamlessly with the existing driving experience. The AR display coalesces a number of technologies already found in the cockpit of modern cars without introducing new screens or UX demands.

There's virtually no learning curve, to pun badly.

Porsche previously teamed up with WayRay for Startup Autobahn, a showcase of European automotive technology, where WayRay took Grand Prize for top automotive startup. WayRay plans to start a pilot production line in Germany.

Hyundai seems as interested in the future applications of WayRay's hologram AR as in its driving applications.

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"The Hyundai-WayRay collaboration will help us establish a brand new eco-system that harnesses AR technology to enhance not only navigation systems but establish an AR platform for smart cities and smart buildings, which are Hyundai Motor Group's new business interests," said Dr. Youngcho Chi, CIO and EVP of Hyundai Motor Group.

Though focused initially on automotive applications, WayRay has plans to expand into sectors like construction and home electronics.

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