Distance Technologies raises $2.7M for glasses-free extended reality apps

Distance Technologies has emerged from stealth as a pioneering developer of glasses-free eXtended Reality (XR) apps designed for the automotive, aerospace, and defense markets.

The aim is to empower users with contextual AI. Already showing a sneak peek of its first commercial product, the Distance Technologies prototype transforms virtually any transparent surface into a window for extended reality. The tech comes from the creators of the Varjo XR headsets.

Using a computer-generated 3D light field that seamlessly mixes with the real world, Distance offers flawless per-pixel depth covering the entire field of view for maximum immersion – and is completely non-reliant on anything worn on the user’s face or body, the company said.

Building on the pioneering Varjo promise of “human-eye resolution” XR content, Helsinki, Finland-based Distance Technologies moves next-generation 3D visual fidelity and performance into the end-user world for the first time.

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Distance Technologies prototype.

This performance was previously constrained primarily to headsets for the automotive design and military markets. With Distance, just look through a window or any transparent surface in your car or on a plane– and experience the next generation of mixed reality.

The content is seen as completely and profoundly natural, thanks to Distance’s groundbreaking per-pixel optical depth capability. All of this is achieved without a headset, a phone, a pin, a device or glasses – just through your own eyes and all without eyestrain.

“There are very few moments in your life where you have the opportunity to ‘bottle lightning.’ I had the privilege of doing it once as cofounder of Varjo with the first human-eye resolution XR headset and now I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to do it again with the Distance platform – and perhaps in an even more transformative way,” said Urho Konttori, CEO and cofounder of Distance Technologies, in a statement. “I have every belief that we are creating a nexus point where true mixed reality without headsets or glasses becomes ubiquitous and that visual AI has the potential to reach everyone on this planet.”

Designed for integration into automotive and advanced aeronautics systems, this technology demonstrator is currently under evaluation by several leading automotive OEMs for potential use in both windshields and windows.

Distance Technologies founders Urho Konttori and Jussi Makinen.

Meanwhile, defense contractors and aviation companies can explore the adoption of Distance technology into commercial and military cockpits and vehicles, anticipating significant enhancements. Future generations of the design are expected to open additional market opportunities.

Long considered a “Holy Grail” moment for the XR industry, glasses-free XR means that any view within a window, windshield or cockpit can now be enhanced with ANY content, data or alphanumeric information.

This XR content can include a wide range of situational analyses and information unique and specific to that location or geospatial coordinate – all appearing completely natural and “in situ.”

Distance technology is designed to also tie-in to a wide range of AI language models and search engines as the means to produce true “Contextual AI” and represents the next generation of XR experience available to a mainstream audience.

“This team is absolutely brilliant and their timing couldn’t be better as the automotive and mobility space is experiencing a true renaissance. Distance’s execution speed is already extraordinary and we have 100% confidence in their ability to revolutionize the XR industry with their groundbreaking technology. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen before, and we’re excited to support their journey to new heights,” said Ilkka Kivimäki, founding partner at Maki.vc, in a statement.

Shown privately to a select group of analysts, journalists and influencers at Augmented World Expo (AWE) 2024, others can watch the demo videos at www.distance.tech.

“We’re honored to lead this first investment in Distance Technologies. We’ve built a strong relationship with the team and love to back experienced founders as early as possible. Distance’s vision perfectly aligns with our broader thesis for the next generation of computing, where digital blends seamlessly with the physical world,” said Petri Rajahalme, founding partner at FOV Ventures, in a statement.

Distance has raised a total of $2.7 million in an oversubscribed pre-seed round led by FOV Ventures and Maki.vc, with further investments from Business Finland and David Helgason’s Foobar.vc. More details on availability and customers for the Distance glasses-free XR solution will be released later in 2024.