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Interview with David Hayes, CEO at Wave Optics

David Hayes

At a business level, I think most leaders would be looking at how AI might be either a threat or an opportunity as it relates to their own product or service. In our case, we see AI as an opportunity.

Know My Company

Tell us about your journey into the Intelligent tech industry. What galvanized you to be a part of WaveOptics?

I have run a number of successful companies over the past 20 years and have been very fortunate to be paid to evaluate new technologies for a living. When I was approached with the opportunity to be CEO at WaveOptics, I was at CES in Jan 2017.

I wasn’t looking to move as my company had been bought by DAQRI and I was really happy there. However, I was persuaded to see the technology. As soon as I did, I could see the potential and decided that it was an opportunity I really couldn’t miss!!!

How is WaveOptics different from other AR/VR platforms currently available in the market?

WaveOptics provides the key optical component for AR glasses and wearables, known in the industry as waveguides. The key difference is that our technology is now both scalable and versatile and will allow AR-end user products to be on the market by the end of next year at a price between $600 and $1,000, which is the lowest price point in the industry today.

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How do you prepare for an AI-driven world as a business leader?

At a business level, I think most leaders would be looking at how AI might be either a threat or an opportunity as it relates to their own product or service. In our case, we see AI as an opportunity.

For example, we use machine learning as a means to iterate our simulations more quickly. Our customers that are building systems will rely on AI to develop effective tracking and computer vision systems.

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How does Augmented Reality unlock the possibilities of image-based conversation, including for videos?

AR is a mix of the real world with computer-generated imagery. Our optics enable the best experience of this immersive technology. Our customers are building the hardware and the ecosystem to support this. There will be an evolution of use cases — starting with industrial today, and moving through enterprise applications, where an AR experience could be using a headset or glasses plugged into a laptop to create virtual screens. From here the wider consumer market will follow.

What are the foundational tenets of your AR-related research?

At WaveOptics, we have a unique combination of real-world experience of AR and academic achievements. For example, our co-founders’ background is in building AR for military use while my own experience is in building businesses as well as practical experience in building AR systems. Over 80% of our R&D team have PhDs so we have a strong team built on a foundation of scientific research.

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What are your top predictions and must-watch AR-related technologies for 2018-2022? How much of these technologies would be influenced by socioeconomic trends?

AR is still in the early stages of development, but well on the path to mass adoption. Over the next few years, I think we will start to see the broader ecosystem develop — hardware, software, applications — which are all required for AR wearables to take off.

What’s the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ about AR/VR? How do you prepare for these situations at WaveOptics?

The big question for the AR market is when it will really start to scale for mass adoption.

Our focus is on designing and building our market-leading waveguide technology for when that happens and in the meantime, we will continue to engage with key customers to develop the optical performance of our technology, with higher fields of view and different materials, to meet their needs. The key is to be ready  however the market evolves.

Do you think “Weaponization of AR technology” is a possibility?

AR will certainly impact many sectors including the defense industry. For example, there are some high-performing AR systems that exist today that are likely used in fighter pilot helmets with near-eye full-color displays integrated into them.

The Crystal Gaze

What other AR/VR start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

I’ve been in the AR industry since the beginning, so am always keen to keep track of key and influential players in the market. We monitor the market closely but also keep an eye on the wider industry, for instance, universities are making great progress in this space. We are exploring collaborations with the universities of Southampton and Exeter who have facilities and post-graduate courses that are potentially very valuable to our work.

Which industries you think would be fastest to adopting AR platforms with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AR technology markets?

Right now, I see the industrial use case applications — where companies have a clear ROI based on efficiency and productivity gains. This could be a repair of an aircraft wing, or the remote assistance of a wind farm engineer. The company could make the necessary investment into applications, hardware, and platforms as the benefits would be significant.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

My smartest work-related shortcut is an optimum mix of verbal and written communications. I tend to favor verbal or face-to-face communication. Phone or video conferencing is so much faster and the work rate so much higher than firing off hundreds of emails. One sent email can quite easily create three inbound emails and people are often consumed by servicing their Inboxes!

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

I would be interested to hear from Michael Abrash at Oculus to see how he sees the AR world developing.

Thank you, David! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

David Hayes was EVP at DAQRI where he architected the design and manufacturing of the company’s Smart Helmet and Smart Glasses AR products. Prior to this he was CEO of 1066 Labs, a product design consultancy specialising in head mounted and head-up displays. David has also founded several successful tech companies


We are the world leading designer and manufacturer of diffractive waveguides. We aim to be the key optical component in wearable Augmented Reality (AR) devices. We deliver an enhanced world: We have extensive real-world experience of designing and building the optical component of AR wearables. Nano-photonics pioneers working hand-in-hand with mass manufacturing expertise worldwide. This is the critical combination that sets us apart. Together we’re delivering the core optical technology to ensure wearable AR becomes an everyday reality. Sooner rather than later.

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