Epitone Inc. Making Car AR a Reality

Originally published Epitone Inc. Making Car AR a Reality on by https://www.sdbj.com/technology/epitone-inc-making-car-ar-a-reality/ at San Diego Business Journal



CARLSBAD – As Artificial Intelligence continues to change the way we drive cars – or how cars will be driving us – the windshields of our cars are also clearly changing.

Next-generation cars have been shifting to offer myriad new options that make driving safer and more intuitive, and Epitone, Inc., a top developer of automotive augmented reality (AR) solutions with a flagship product called LiveWindow, is leading part of that movement.

Epitone focuses on developing comprehensive solutions through software, hardware and optical technology that merge mobility and AR platforms, targeting the future automotive market, seeking to better drive safety and driver focus.

SungHoon Hong
Epitone, Inc.

With $30 million collectively raised through Series A and Series B1 fundraisers since launching in Incheon, South Korea in 2021, and a new factory in Tijuana with 10 employees – and preparing soon to expand its workforce – Epitone is moving quickly to create the car windshields of the future now, with front car glass features never before seen.

Epitone’s design, development and testing has been ongoing with global automotive companies since its early development stages, and the company is currently in discussions with a major automaker to build LiveWindow into their vehicles, Epitone CEO SungHoon Hong.

Epitone is transforming cars and SUVs into “smart cars” that integrate AR technologies with advanced driver-assistance systems, where the entire windshield becomes part in-car app and IT device offering high-definition graphics, real-time information, and where the entire road turns into a canvas, Hong said.

LiveWindow uses translucent digital imagery projected across the entire length of the windshield as the vehicle’s primary display and integrates vehicle sensory information through onboard software and applications.

It also integrates music controls, phone calls and vehicle diagnostics, and puts them into the driver’s field of view instead of the driver having to look away from the road. It creates a distributed AI network offering automated communication for sharing sensor data, great for optimizing routes, safety coordination and even behavior predictions.

The New Shift (or Lack Thereof)

Drivers in cars on the road today often shift their gaze between various displays on their car dashboard or glance around at their smart phones, both of which can be hazardous.

In a very different and safer experience, LiveWindow, compact and easily installable in any automobile, uses the front window to arrange content on the road, warn of hazards and more.

Through AR and “smart” features, Epitone’s windshields become an entire display of information about what’s up ahead on the road and what the driver’s patterns are, complete with 3D graphics.

In addition to displays in the front of the car, Epitone incorporates cameras and sensors near the driver’s seat, installs a computing box on the other side of the vehicle and has Global Positioning System for navigation in the rear. This connection collects information and shares it through the display on the windshield.

It detects driver-overlooked dangers by collecting essential data, including driver information, road conditions and vehicle data, with a network of front/driver view cameras and sensors for assessing vehicle localization, graphical rendering and eye tracking.

Epitone Chief Creative Officer Junki Park said the company is already a disruptive force in the industry.

Junki Park
Chief Creative Officer
Epitone, Inc.

“We are not just a technical company,” Park said. “I think Epitone is a little bit of the troublemaker in the automotive industry, and this is our ambition now. Others have made just devices, but we have the approach to change the entire car to a smart car with hardware and the whole ecosystem … similar to what happened with the smartphone.”

Park and Hong say there are no true competitors in the industry able to be in all of the spaces Epitone is – with sensors, displays, methodology, computing and AI all under its umbrella.

“Epitone is the only company optimizing all these components together, from methodology to display to computing,” Hong said. “We are 40 employees but all 40 are experts at what they do.”

LiveWindow’s Time Coming Soon

Fortune Business Insights reports that the global automotive windshield market size was valued at $29.74 billion in 2023. Research Nester reports that the automotive glass market size is expected to reach $40 billion by the end of 2036, growing at a CAGR of 6% from 2024-2036.

The growth is due to increased technological advancements in the automotive industry, including autonomous mobility and electrification and Data Bridge Market Research said there is currently a high investment in research and development activities for the manufacturing of advanced windshields to satisfy government regulations as well as growing consumer demand.

The company reports that the investment banking industry estimates Epitone’s valuation to be approaching $200 million.

Within four years, says Hong said we’ll be seeing the Epitone windshields in vehicles. Prototypes of the windshields are already being tested in a few cars in San Diego County, though not available to the public.

Hong has been in San Diego since 1999 but left from 2016 to 2021 to serve as vice president in the AR technology development division at Samsung Electronics Advanced Technology Institute in Korea. While at Samsung, Hong led the development and business implementation of 3D augmented reality head-up display, and holographic AR glasses, related devices software and system at Samsung.

After initially launching Epitone in South Korea with Samsung behind it, Hong moved back to Southern California. He established a corporation in San Diego to target the global market.

Epitone’s local offices started on Nobel Drive, recently moved to Carlsbad, and now includes a mass production pilot line in Tijuana.

The company is currently in the middle of a Series B2 seeking to raise $3 million from investors.

Hong said later this month the company expected to disclose more information about one of the “biggest automakers in Europe” that is getting behind the company and LiveWindow but said he could not disclose the name right now.

He said that Epitone is currently undergoing quality certification to supply AR head-up displays (HUD) for the company, which he said is ready to make a strategic investment in Epitone.

An initial $20 million Series A investment came from Hyosung Group and its subsidiary Shinwha Intertek for producing the core optical modules back in 2021 and 2022. Epitone’s Series B1 fundraising came via a $10 million investment from SoluM for the overall production of the LiveWindow display boxes.

SoluM has a business model that produces vehicle displays, equips them with Epitone’s HUD solution, and supplies them to original equipment manufacturers.

The AR HUD developed by Epitone utilizes the entire front display of the vehicle to implement AR that shows the vehicle’s speed, location, and gap to the left, right and front car in real time. Risk factors across the road are also provided in 3D AR, with. Smart Film, an optical film for 3D AR from Shinhwa, is expected to be installed as part of LiveWindow.

Epitone, Inc.
OPENED: 2021
CEO: SungHoon Hong
HEADQUARTERS: Carlsbad, Incheon, South Korea and factory in Tijuana
BUSINESS: Software Development/Computer Systems Design
FUNDING: Company has raised $30 million in Series A and Series B1 round combined; currently in Series B2 funding
WEBSITE: epitone.ai
CONTACT: [email protected]
SOCIAL IMPACT: Last month, Epitone’s LiveWindow won the 2024 iF DESIGN AWARD in the User Experience category
NOTABLE: CEO Hong was VP at Samsung Electronics in Korea from 2016-2021

Originally published San Diego Business Journal

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