XPANCEO, a deep tech startup, has raised a $40 million seed round to launch the first contact lenses with AR vision features. The round was led by Hong Kong-based Opportunity Ventures (Asia). The funds will be invested to launch the next prototype, in which the company will gather several features in one device.
After several attempts by other companies to create smart lenses, the XPANCEO team has created and successfully tested in the laboratory three separate prototypes to enable night vision and zoom, real-time health monitoring, and the ability to see video and graphic content in AR. The new device, which is the world’s first ultra thin lens, feels as natural to the wearer as their own vision. It is made of advanced optical materials (including low-dimensional and van der Waals materials), which exhibit record-breaking refractive indices and anisotropy and maintain excellent optical properties. The new device is aimed to unleash the full potential of AR technology by making it accessible and easy to use.
The company was founded by Valentyn S. Volkov, a Ukrainian scientist who boasts over 7000 citations in some of the most respected international media, and Roman Axelrod, an experienced entrepreneur with three previous exits. XPANCEO's multidisciplinary team includes over 50 outstanding scientists, engineers and executive leaders from top universities, research institutions and deep tech companies, and gathers expertise both in science and novel technologies as well as product management and development in complex markets. XPANCEO also collaborates with top scientists from universities all around the globe, such as the Donostia International Physics Center (Spain), Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), National University of Singapore (Singapore), University of Oviedo (Spain),University of Manchester (UK), Aix-Marseille University (France) and the University of Zaragoza among others to create the first all-in-one prototype by 2026.
Co-founder and Scientific Partner, Valentyn S. Volkov, Ph.D. says: ''We are targeting, at least, the $790 billion Augmented Reality and Contact Lenses market, and creating the first device in the market that will allow us to use all apps and software in a single contact lens interface. Our device will effectively merge all your gadgets into one. XPANCEO was recognized as one of the top five optic laboratories in the world by international consulting firm BCG, and has practical experience in developing and studying unique materials (like graphene and other 2D materials), opening a way for the realization of next-generation ultra-compact optoelectronic devices."
The use of classical optoelectronic materials and technologies has proven insufficient to realise this project, as the resulting components are too bulky to be effectively integrated into a practical and user-friendly contact lens. XPANCEO combines over 20 patented technologies in Advanced Optic and Photonics, Novel material, AI, and Neural Interfacing to create ultra-compact and highly efficient optoelectronic devices in smart contact lenses, paving the way for a gradual transition from traditional silicon technologies to the "graphene valley’’ future.
The high refractive indices, coupled with the giant anisotropy of the materials used in waveguide-based devices, are key factors that enable a more efficient light bending and guiding process compared to modern optical devices. This opens up possibilities for the realisation of ultra-compact optical elements. Another key technology developed by XPANCEO is its flexible and transparent electronics, based on highly conductive quasi-2D metallic films with thicknesses of only a few nanometers. To engage with these technologies, we employ AI to develop models capable of accurate predictions regarding the optical characteristics of similar materials. Neural Interfacing gives the user full control over the applications, without the need for awkward eye movements, blinks, or extra controllers.
Opportunity Venture’s (Asia) Managing Director Philip Ma says: “We led this round of funding as a testament to the fact that XPANCEO has not merely an ambition but also a capacity to deliver on its product vision. We believe that now XPANCEO has all the resources needed to drive their R&D and product design forward, and do it even faster. Opportunity Venture (Asia) sees the potential in XPANCEO to define the next generation of computing and to become a major player in the world of personal tech in the post smartphone era."