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WayRay raises $80M at a $500M valuation led by Porsche for its holographic AR display tech

The large, legacy car industry has pinned a lot of hopes and dreams on innovative startups to build the next generation of automotive technology, and today the latest chapter in that story was revealed.  WayRay , a Zurich-based developer of holographic augmented reality technology and hardware — used in head-up displays that project images into a driver’s field of vision — has raised $80 million of funding, a Series C led by Porsche, with Hyundai Motor, previous investor Alibaba Group, China Merchants Capital, JVCKENWOOD, and several sovereign wealth funds also participating. WayRay says it will be using the funds to bring its display technology to market by way of OEM deals with carmakers, projected for next year, with longer term plans including building tech for other kinds of displays like windows: WayRay has been around for five years and its products are still only in the prototype stage — albeit being widely shown off — but its valuation has seen a significant bump, with a source close to WayRay telling us it is now $500 million. Meanwhile, in an interview, WayRay’s founder and CEO, Vitaly Ponomarev, projects that when commercial rollout commences on its products — which it expects to do next year — that figure will likely double. “The lifecycle of our product is pretty long,” Ponomarev said. “We are just now becoming a certified supplier to the automotive industry but that takes time. We are aiming to become a tier-two supplier by next year. The contracts should be signed beginning of next year and that should help with valuation.” He said that the company has been contacted by “all the major car manufacturers.” (For some more financing context, the company has officially raised $110 million, but our source said that unofficially, it’s actually raised $140 million, with some investors asking to keep their backing quiet for now.) The market for automotive head-up displays was estimated to be worth as much as $560 million last year, with that number growing to over $1 billion by 2023. Companies like WayRay are going head-to-head with the likes of Continental, Panasonic and others to meet a demand for these systems, which will serve a couple of different purposes: providing assistance to drivers of vehicles, and providing additional information and entertainment to passengers (and potentially drivers in autonomous cars). Ponomarev said that his company will be launching an SDK in two weeks to help build apps for both of these use cases. WayRay as a company is spread across two countries that have been strong for AI, specifically computer vision talent, and in-car safety systems. A large part of WayRay’s R&D and its first factory (for prototyping) are in Moscow, Russia, and it also has a second base in Switzerland, currently Zurich — recently relocated from Lausanne to be closer to the German border and the automotive companies that are based there. Germany will also be where it builds its first factory to produce commercial parts. The second is planned for Shanghai, where there is currently only a sales office

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Apple’s iOS 12 is out today

If you've been waiting with breathless anticipation for Apple to drop the latest version of iOS, your time is now. The company just released iOS 12, though like any iOS update, Apple's servers are currently slammed so it might be awhile before you're...

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