A special research center in partnership with the Politecnico di Milano, investments of EUR 50 million, over 100 researchers: these are the ingredients of EssilorLuxottica’s next mission towards the new frontier: the glasses of the future, always connected and able to interact with the augmented reality of the metaverse.
Something unthinkable that will become reality thanks to the brilliance and visionary nature of the great entrepreneur Leonardo Del Vecchio, who died a few weeks ago at the age of 87, always looking to the future, innovation and new technologies. The true legacy of del Vecchio, in addition to the empire he built and left to his six children and his wife, seems to be the continuous trend of growth and change.
We talked to Francesco Milleri, the new number one of the group, who now combines his role of CEO with that of Chairperson, and who is determined to continue in the footsteps of the founder.
Del Vecchio's ability was that he could envision a future that others failed to see, and he attracted the people who could find a solution.
“This project,” he explains, “stems from the innovative drive of our chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio and from his ability to attract opportunities. The project was conceived earlier, but it picked up pace when a great young businessman from Palo Alto took a flight to Agordo to meet someone who could solve a problem for him.” The reference is to the meeting last May, when “Marc Zuckerberg came here: for the first time, America came to Italy to look for a solution. This was Del Vecchio's ability to envision a future that others failed to see, and to attract people who can find a solution.”
But how will these glasses be produced? EssilorLuxottica and Politecnico di Milano will create the Smart Eyewear Lab. It will have an initial duration of five years and will employ over 100 researchers and scientists full-time, who will work closely together in a special research center within the Innovation District, which the Politecnico di Milano is developing in the Parco dei Gasometri, in the Bovisa area of Milan. The aim of the university is to reduce the distance between universities and companies with the creation of a highly international research environment that promotes synergies and transversality.
The main challenge of the project will be the definition of basic technologies in terms of hardware, software and applications to enable people to interact with the digital world. The first objectives are to study and develop electronic and photonic components and algorithms that acquire, process and display to the user all the information in the real world through augmented reality. The development of this hardware and software will allow the technology to be integrated into different prototypes of eyewear, through the development of materials, charging systems and algorithms to validate their performance in real environments.
The EssilorLuxottica Smart Eyewear Lab in Milan will operate as part of the Group’s research and development network already active and spread all over the world, with more than 30 R&D centers devoted to vision care, eyewear design, sustainability and digital transformation, approximately one thousand researchers and more than 11,000 patents.
The project is all about digital innovation, technology, change. It is about young people and the future of our group and of the whole of Italy
“Let's lay the first stone of something very important,” says Milleri. “Our regret is for not having our chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio here with us. We are talking about the things he cared about most: digital innovation, technology, change. We are here talking about young people; we are talking about the future not only of our group but of our whole country. Let’s begin to lay the foundations for a research center that will focus on basic technologies, on the components that will lead to the creation of smart glasses; they will be something much more and different, a world that we still struggle to understand and understand: the metaverse, augmented reality. We are imagining them but very few actually really know them because we lack the tools. This world will be created at the same time it is experienced with the interaction of people, which will be possible when technologies will be easy to use. This is the great challenge that can change our group and can help change the world. It’s happening in Milan–it is no coincidence that we have one of the most important sites of our group here–and with the full support of the government, which I hope will be with us for a long time to come in this project.”
Milleri also describes the EssilorLuxottica group left by Del Vecchio: “The group mission is clear, the approach is clear, this is our chairman's legacy. We will continue to grow with the market, the acquisitions are complementary. We will be an open multinational in two countries–Italy and France–with our heart in Agordo and our head in Paris and Milan. Our customers and consumers are our partners: this is the philosophy we will follow forever.”
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