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Swave (Flanders) is working on a hyperrealistic metaverse

Swave Photonics, a new spin-off of strategic research center imec and university VUB, has completed a first capital round of EUR 7 million. The company from Leuven (Flanders) specializes in holography that’s visually indistinguishable from physical reality. Participating investors in the financing round include venture capital fund imec.xpand, the Flanders Future Techfund (FFTF) and interuniversity seed and growth fund QBIC.

Valuable tech from Flanders

The technology from Flanders is valuable for, among other things, the metaverse, described by Swave as “a kind of 3D version of the internet” in which people are virtually connected to the environment, objects and each other. “We want to make the 3D visualization indistinguishable from reality,” says Swave co-founder and CEO Theodore Marescaux: a mission that Swave shares with Meta Platforms, the overarching company that runs Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp among others.

Pixels to the rescue

Turning this mission into a reality requires solving complex optical issues. Swave, however, says it has the solution: Holographic eXtended Reality (HXR). The spin-off company offers holographic projectors (2 by 2 cm) for high-end holographic display applications as well as smaller versions (0.5 by 0.5 cm) for ultralight portable devices.

Virtual 3D images that can be seen by the naked eye are the metaverse’s holy grail. HXR makes this possible through billions of tiny, densely packed pixels. These tiny pixels enable the high resolution that corresponds to perfect human vision.

Theodore Marescaux
CEO and co-founder of Swave Photonics

Broad application fields

HXR is mainly destined for the projector and extended reality markets. The latter market includes big corporations focused on virtual and augmented reality such as Meta, Google and Microsoft. These companies can use Swave’s technology as part of the next generations of headsets, offering a viewing experience with very high resolution, depth of field and viewing angles of 180 to 360 degrees. However, the application fields are broader than just headsets. For example, walls incorporating holographic projectors and stand-alone 3D screens are possible too.

Within two years, potential customers can test the product. Mass production could then follow as soon as six to nine months later. Major tech companies from around the world are reportedly enthusiastic about the new development.

Within five years, across the supply chain, a few thousand people could be working, with about ninety to a few hundred at Swave itself.

Dmitri Choutov
COO and co-founder of Swave Photonics

Extensive patent collection

“HXR is a very innovative technology which we at imec have been developing for more than five years,” says Luc Van den hove, CEO of imec, the strategic research center from which Swave spun off. “What’s more, Swave has an extensive collection of patents, which helps explain the major interest from investors.”

“Swave answers some of the main AR and VR challenges, making the spin-off perfectly poised to serve the USD 93 billion metaverse market,” adds Peter Vanbekbergen, partner of imec.xpand, an independent venture capital firm that works closely with imec. Swave is, in fact, the first investment of the imec.xpand 2 fund, which is “well on its way to becoming one of Europe’s largest early-stage technology funds.”

Managed by the government of Flanders, the Flanders Future Technology Fund (FFTF) is also investing in the pioneering company. “Swave is part of a growing group of companies that put Flanders on the worldwide map within the deep tech industry by offering practical answers to complex problems. FFTF’s mission is to accelerate the international breakthrough of technologies developed by Flanders’ knowledge centers. That’s exactly what our region is doing with this investment in Swave.”

More info

Swave (VUB)
Reported by
newspaper De Tijd
11 July 2022

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