“We’re very excited [about it],” said AdHawk CEO Neil Sarkar. “We have the funding now to take the prototypes we developed while we were still at the University of Waterloo and get to mass production, and have the funding to reach out to customers and hopefully get some design wins.”
Intel Capital is a division of Intel Corp., the Santa Clara, Calif.-based semiconductor maker. Joining them in the round is Brightspark Ventures of Toronto.
AdHawk grew out of University of Waterloo and got its start as a formal company in 2015; it’s now based out of the former Sortable space at 607 King St. W.
AdHawk makes a product that can be embedded in glasses or an AR/VR headset that is capable of predicting where a user will look – 50 milliseconds before they do so. The technology potentially renders camera-based eye tracking systems obsolete and paves the way for a more immersive generation of AR/VR experiences. The system is powered by a simple coin-cell battery.
“As soon as we had the tech and we were able to demo it we started going around to customers and investors, and the interesting thing was there wasn’t a single customer we spoke to who didn’t want to evaluate the technology yesterday,” said Sarkar.
The product has potential use-cases in gaming, healthcare and industrial training.
“Creating a sense of total immersion, through an untethered, responsive and unobtrusive headset, is the ultimate goal of the VR/AR world,” Sarkar said. “We believe our technology will go a long way to enabling headset makers to deliver that experience to their users.”
The company also makes sensors similar to its eye tracker that would fit into a phone or smartwatch and allow you to interact with the device without touching it by using hand and finger gestures.
Sarkar said Intel was a good fit as an investor because they are eager “to play a big part in the ecosystem of mobile computing.”
In terms of market size, Sarkar said that AR/VR headset shipments are expected to grow to 100 million units by 2021. He said “last year there were five to 10 million that were shipped.
“I think all the major players are investing a ton of money into it, and really want to make it a success. We’re all hopeful this market is going to really take off.”
The funding has already allowed AdHawk to grow from 10 to 17 employees and more will be added soon, Sarkar said. All employees are University of Waterloo grads or grad students.