Editor’s note: Startup Spotlight is a regular part of WRAL TechWire’s Startup Monday package which includes our exclusive Startup Guide and its updates, calendars of events, our list to find tech meetups across the Triangle, multiple calendar of events updates and Startup Rewind, a look back at the previous week’s headlines.
DURHAM – As the metaverse becomes a digital reality, a Durham firm says it’s ready to make sense of all the data from a wide variety of sensors, sources and devices that is merging into a virtual environment.
BrightView Technologies launched in 2002 as a components manufacturer for rear-screen projection televisions. Now, two decades later, the company is primed to capitalize on recent year-over-year revenue growth to accelerate its lines of business in emerging applications of what company CEO Jennifer Aspell called “the world of Visual Intelligence” in a recent interview with WRAL TechWire.
In between, the company emerged as a provider of micro lens arrays (MLA) for the LED lighting market and was acquired by Tredegar Corporation in 2010 only to be spun out as an independent company again in early 2021, along with growth capital from Technology Venture Partners. The company also landed on Scot Wingo’s Triangle Tweener List for the first time in 2021.
The company’s focus is now on pioneering and providing solutions within the new and emerging industries that rely on visual data, said Aspell. “With the advent of the IoT and AI, it is increasingly vital that the metaverse has a mechanism to perceive the world effectively, and Visual Intelligence is that technology,” said Aspell, adding that the MLA technologies can “create optical distributions that can unlock unique, transformative opportunities” including in 3D sensing, HDR displays, biometrics, machine vision, automotive applications, and LiDAR.
WRAL TechWire spoke with Aspell about the company, its technology, and the future of optical and sensor data applications. A lightly edited transcript of that interview appears below.
WRAL TechWire (TW): Let’s talk about LiDAR. How is BrightView using LiDAR, what is the future of LiDAR technology applications, and what could we expect to see between now and 2032?
Jennifer Aspell, CEO, BrightView Technologies (Aspell): LiDAR is one way to bring Visual Intelligence to the emerging environment of autonomous vehicles, robotics and factories of the future. Flash LiDAR uses pulses of light, usually emitted from a vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) array coupled with a time-of-flight (ToF) camera, to measure the distance of surrounding objects. These are often placed at strategic points surrounding the application. This helps creates an accurate 3D map of the environment and do it very quickly.
It is critical to create a very accurate and specific Field of View (FoV) for the LiDAR system. BrightView’s technology offers the ability to uniquely tailor a FoV using custom designed Micro Lens Arrays in a variety of form factors.
TW: The company is in the process of expanding production capacity. What more can you tell us about this growth?
Aspell: With the increasing needs for Visual Intelligence, our company has seen significant increase in demand across many emerging markets. We are in the process of expanding production capacity to support the company’s position as a leading supplier of MLA’s for LiDAR and other growth applications for 2022 and beyond. As part of a 10-year lease renewal on our Triangle Business Center headquarters in the Research Triangle Park area, our upgraded facilities will help accelerate BrightView’s development in LiDAR and other advancing industries.
As part of the expansion, we are finalizing designs for a new production line with the possibility of adding additional lines at a later date.
Facility upgrades to support the production expansion are scheduled to begin in early 2022 and be complete toward the end of the year. The facilities will strategically support BrightView’s ascension in new markets and expand clean rooms capacity for the increased development and manufacture of innovative MLA components to meet demanding customer specifications. As our production capacity increases, we anticipate adding staff to support the larger production demands.
TW: As the company will be adding employees, how are you approaching the talent and labor market at this time, and what’s the state of the labor market in the Triangle at this time?
Aspell: As with most industries, it is a tight labor market. However, retention and recruitment strategies are at the forefront for us right now as we aim to grow the business in tandem with the advancement of our field. We’re focused on cultivating a workforce that is passionate about BrightView’s mission and commitment to creating transformative value for our customers through innovation, service and social responsibility.
Recent executive hires, including Jonae Wilson, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, and Larry Richards, Director of Manufacturing, will help drive the company forward in this mission and our next phase of growth and development. We also will be unveiling a new logo and branding elements in early 2022 to signify a major milestone in this collective journey as a company.
TW: The company also operates in the field of light displays. What technology exists that people may not be aware of right now that is changing the future of how we see and engage with devices, displays, facilities, and more?
Aspell: The world of Visual Intelligence™ is fueling fascinating technology developments and validating BrightView’s growth strategies. For example, light field display is an emergent display technology that reproduces a 3D image without the need for glasses and allows multiple viewers to see the image from any perspective. In the future we’ll be able to achieve a more 360° display. You’re already seeing some of these effects with holograms at concerts and sporting events.
Because new and innovative Visual Intelligence™ technologies are being developed all the time, BrightView is committed to offering Micro Lens array technologies that can manage optics in a variety of applications not limited to displays. Our optics experts have many years of experience and can work with customers on custom projects to make their display project come to life.
TW: Tell us more – what are the existing challenges that company’s customers are facing that they’re addressing with these solutions?
The industry is currently transitioning from edge-lit displays, where LEDs are deployed in the edges of the display, to mini-LED backlight displays where thousands of tiny LEDs are in a matrix in the back of the display. Zones of mini-LEDS can be individually controlled which enable high dynamic range with better contrast while at the same time improving power efficiency and brightness.
These new displays require MLA components to optimize the benefits of mini-LED technology. Specifically, MLA components improve the uniformity of the display while maintaining brightness and enabling very thin displays. BVT is developing MLAs for the next generation of notebook, tablet, and desktop displays using mini-LED technology.
TW: What are the trends in technology that you’re tracking – how might those trends impact companies, markets in 2022 and beyond?
We are tracking the evolution of Visual Intelligence. In a world where applications require a way to perceive surroundings, BVT’s MLA products provide innovative solutions across a range of markets including LiDAR, display, 3D Sensing, AR/VR, Gesture Recognition, Lighting, and Automotive segments. Our exceptional engineering talent works in partnership and collaboration with our customers to develop solutions to propel their technology forward.
BrightView’s goal is to understand and anticipate the next generation’s market needs for Visual Intelligence and unlock the potential of tomorrow’s technology. We’re excited about the overall opportunities in front of the company—we are transforming tomorrow’s technology by pushing the limits of Visual Intelligence.