The Curious Case of Kura Technologies

AR is a field that is filled with both great technology as well as hyperbole and wishful thinking. At the moment, Kura Technologies is the clear frontrunner of being the most intriguing brain-teaser in the group. This tiny company claims to have developed a display technology that simply blows the doors off of anything that any other company has claimed: 8K resolution, 150 degrees FOV, 60+ pixels per degree, 95% transmission, unlimited depth of field, etc.. In short, unbelievable.

To be sure, the underlying optical technology, pin-mirror optics, is legit. The Korean company LetinAR has publicly demonstrated glasses based on this technology as early as 2018, (thought with far more modest specifications), and there are plenty of academic papers that discuss the technology. Kura founder Kelly Peng has several patent applications that cover the optics and driver electronics. (Although, strangely, they are not assigned to Kura, but rather to a company called Auroratech, which shares an address with Ms. Peng.)

The obvious question is, if this is at all real, they why have they not been snapped up by one of the large players in the industry. Last year, Snap acquired WaveOptics for $500 million, Meta acquired ImagineOptix, and Samsung acquired DigiLens shortly after it had valued itself at $500 million in its D round. None of these acquired companies boasted specs anywhere close to that of Kura’s.

The story gets even murkier around the subject of microLEDs . Kura claims to be developing their own microLED devices, also with astonishing specifications. “10,000 times the defect tolerance and four times the brightness variation of any other microLED.” This technology does not grow on trees. In 2020, Meta, (then Facebook), outbid Apple for the exclusive rights to use Plessey Semiconductor’s microLEDs, and, more recently, Google purchased outright the microLED company Raxium.

Kura recently announced that the semiconductor fab company TSMC was partnering with them in producing these devices, though, in the carefully worded press release ,it is not clear whether TSMC is actually investing, or simply producing the silicon. In addition, it is unclear whether the chips in question are just display driver circuits, which are fairly generic, or whether they are the actual microLED displays, which are quite another matter.

There are certainly some believers. Kura won a CES 2022 Innovation Award for their Gallium glasses, which are said to live up to all of these specifications. And the Company claims to have over 350 customers, lined up to receive glasses when they ship.

Perhaps this is a young CEO, who truly believes they are right on the cusp of delivering everything that is being promised. Personally, I would be thrilled if it were all to be true — I want there to be great AR at least as much as the next person. But I am placing my money squarely on the short side of this one.

The Curious Case of Kura Technologies was originally published in AR/VR Journey: Augmented & Virtual Reality Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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