Launched in Adelaide in 2009, Voxon Photonics is bringing its world-leading 3D volumetric display technology to defence systems research and development across the globe.
While tinkering with a point of light in a backyard shed, Gavin Smith and Will Tamblyn became obsessed with the idea of inventing a real holographic display the world had not yet seen.
After much experimentation, they developed the VX1 – the first fully integrated commercial volumetric display which enables anyone with basic technology skills to create rich and accurate 3D images that can be viewed from all angles without wearing a 3D headset or special glasses.
A little more than a decade later, their South Australian company Voxon Photonics has secured work in various industry sectors, including with some of the largest, most respected companies across the globe.
“Early on, we were inspired by movies that showed 3D displays being used in defence decision making, visualising battle stations and the position of threats and targets,” says Gavin, now CEO of Voxon Photonics.
“So we felt our technology could be commercially viable in various defence scenarios.”
Voxon is the only company that can generate true 3D imagery without requiring wearables, enabling immediate situational awareness for time-critical decision making.
Late last year, Voxon – along with BAE Systems Australia, Flinders University and the University of South Australia – was awarded a Defence Innovation Partnership grant to support the advancement of the technology to enable superior decision making through battlespace visualisation.
“Through that relationship, we have joined BAE Systems’ Global Access Program and already supplied our VX1 evaluation hardware, as well as a software demo that illustrates the technology’s value as a valuable data visualisation and command and control aid,” says Gavin.
The prototype will also be used in Australia’s Hunter Class Frigate program for research and technology development purposes. Future activities will focus on scalability, ruggedisation and specific operating functions that will have multiple applications in defence across maritime, air, land and space domains.
“We will continue to support BAE Systems’ requirements for advanced visualisation across a range of use cases, including navigation, planning and rapid data interpretation.”
The Adelaide technology company has been a fully digital operation since day one, but partnering with BAE Systems has greatly improved its project management, scoping and record keeping systems.
“While there is clearly a lot of documentation and process required to become an accredited defence supplier, BAE Systems has been incredibly helpful and provided resources to smooth the process as much as possible,” says Gavin.
We’ve had the opportunity to meet with and demonstrate our technology to the widest range of personnel
Gavin Smith, CEO Voxon Photonics
The partnership has also helped speed up Voxon’s own research and development processes, vastly accelerating the use of disruptive technology in commercial applications.
Based at the Tonsley Innovation District, Adelaide’s Factory of the Future – an initiative by BAE Systems and Flinders University – which is fast-tracking cutting-edge manufacturing into industry.
Having access to such experimental spaces is invaluable for enterprises like Voxon which don’t necessarily have the resources to divert focus from day-to-day business operations to work on speculative projects.
In this regard, Gavin appreciates BAE Systems’ flexible approach to intellectual property. Any advances Voxon makes during the partnership can be used in non-defence related projects including medical imaging, advertising, education and entertainment.
“So they’re not just helping us develop our technology for defence, but also for the volumetric display industry as a whole.”
Advice to Australian businesses
Gavin notes that while working with a large defence prime can seem like a daunting prospect, it’s one worth pursuing.
“In reality, it has been one of our most enjoyable client relationships. We’ve had the opportunity to meet with and demonstrate our technology to the widest range of personnel – from graduate engineers right up to the most senior members of Australia’s Defence Force.”
Looking to the future
For Voxon, it’s just the beginning – with more opportunities across BAE Systems’ global business on its radar.
"The ability to solve complex problems is what has enabled Voxon to develop the world's most advanced 3D volumetric display,” Gavin says.
“By partnering with BAE Systems and leveraging its aerospace grade engineering experience, we now have the human and manufacturing resources required to build our next generation display technology."