GameDaily sits down with Vuzix CEO Paul Travers to discuss the evolving AR brillo game, challenges and way forward.
Imagine a world where Netflix, news, weather, games, whatever you connect to, really – all these days (dare we say, time) apps are all a push away, right in front of your eyes. This concept, relegated to cyberpunk and science-fiction, is moving quickly towards becoming, well, fact.
Rochester, NY-based Vuzix is working to make it a reality. The company has just started selling its Blade AR Smart Glasses to consumers for $ 1
I met with Travers at the Vuzix headquarters in Rochester, NY. Travers has been working in AR / VR rooms since the beginning of the 90s, but it is only now that technology comes to the point where it is streamlined enough to become commonplace.
"I think Palmer Luckey was a year old when I started a virtual reality head mounted show company in" 93, he said.
The company was not called Vuzix then, and it went through a number of name changes. In the mid-90s, the biggest opportunity for defense markets was.
"Our focus has been on the portable technology market, Travers continued. "We started by creating thermal weapon engines and then monocular units. It was more focused on special forces. You know you have drones running around buildings, so you see video recordings on them and those kinds of things. If you think about it, The beginning of the portable technology market, these guys wore 150 to 300 pounds of equipment in the field, and they were trying to connect the digital world to the real world.When we talked to the guys, they would really have glasses that looked like Oakley sunglasses. "
Fast forward 30 or so years, and Vuzix is almost at the sunglasses-set tipping point. Travers showed me the progress of the glasses and the prototype for how thin the next model could be (picture below). The company is working to shrink its proprietary waveguide, which shows the transmitted image on the lens. Vuzix bread and butter is not true AR. It's about increasing the field of view with information or entertainment that you would normally get on your phone. It's more like Google Glass than Magic Leap, which is a deliberate divide.
"It's very difficult to do things people should Wear, "Travers said." Just think about Magic Leap. It's not that comfortable, and you look like you just stepped out of the Starship Enterprise. We are not believers in it. So our focus is on doing it so people want it. If you can create a product that Apple wants to name, at least you've solved the issue of usability.
"And then we have a lot of energy that we put into it. And then the whole ecosystem, the app store, the developer tools, the development society, all we do very hard right now. But we see it a little differently than Magic Leap does. We try We don't want to build gaming systems per se. We want location-conscious content. We want it so you can easily put your phone in your pocket. We will use cases where people are like, "Man, how have I ever got this done before?" "I think in the big scheme of things that are really more important than a few hundred games. There are many VR titles out there today, but the VR systems don't take care of them yet. It doesn't go away, don't make me wrong. But it hasn't become the next Xbox. "
Travers don't necessarily see Magic Leap or HoloLens as competitors, as they have taken a different approach to magnified reality. No one has turned to usability from the early stages.
"Magic Leap sold its business based on whales that jumped out of high school floors," he noted. "I'm not saying it's not a cool concept, but if you look at the headset, for almost three grand, it's a pretty big and bulky thing. It reminds me of a VR system."
Like Magic Leap, Vuzix has been focused more on the corporate arena so far, but games should surely be an area for Blade smartglasses as well. I played around with some simple demos, shooting between spaceships, dinosaurs, etc. It's not mind-boggling, but it's nice, and with more developers coming on board, the app market is sure to produce some gems as it matures.  "There are currently over 400 developers a month to register on our website," Travers said. "It's mostly smaller boys because the bigger guys are like," Tell me when you have 5 million of them in the field and we support it. "But there are lots of little boys. Social media services [will be big too]. There is a guy in the UK, his entire company – it runs on Apple, but it's a dating app. He's like," I'm telling you, it must be on your glasses for so many reasons, so many environments I want it to be. "So it's guys like doing some pretty far things, from entertainment to social media to the same face recognition, kind of thing if you choose.
"Atari wants us to come out with a couple of titles, sort of revolutionizing these glasses. We're working on it. There is no doubt, I think games should be a great game for this. I think rather note gaming [should be huge]. Think of Pokemon Go in these glasses. You don't have to take the phone out anymore. [Rochester developer] Workinman has another title where they use GPS on the phone and you run down the streets wherever you are and when you block a street through the glasses, it turns blue. And then you collect blocks, street bells and the other people you play with, do the same, so they can turn green, and they can turn red because of networking. »
Google Glass wearers were often mocked, but society's attitudes to connected devices continue to evolve. People are trained to keep up the phones as cameras or AR devices from an early age. The social distress can fade. Make the glasses as thin and discreet as possible, just to help.
"This is designed so you can walk down the street, wear your glasses and not feel out of place," Travers said. "Show the president that we're talking to Yelp, he's been out in San Francisco. He said no-one has ever looked at twice. They're not perfect. But they're going to get better and better."
5G around the corner, Travers sees great opportunities to download much of the computing that had been needed in the glasses in the past. The cloud has become extremely powerful.
"You can run a full Xbox out of the cloud right now. And it will allow you to have light, smaller batteries, etc., and still have amazing performance," Travers confirmed. "So with 5G, get rid of the CPUs, power consumption goes down and you have super performance. And then you can make glasses that people want because you don't have all those things packed in them."
The Blade smart glasses have Built-in audio, but also works with micro USB or Bluetooth headphones. You can also get prescription lenses if necessary. The glasses sold today offer support for Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa as well. It is clearly very early days, but the potential is certainly there.
"For developers in general, AR glasses are a new paradigm," added Matt Margolis, Corporate Communications Communications Manager. "When we solve the form factor, many opportunities open up. Even those working with Magic Leap are some of the things they do, not traditional gaming. They build certain experiences, deliver AR, and their development side skills. So we can make many things. "
Unlike Magic Leap's creator program, which the company invests" eight figures "to support developers, Vuzix will not cover developer costs on that scale, but the company plans to provide the right developers with a free kit to work with. .
"We're a small company, so it's hard to do this for everyone, but we give away a fair number of units, strategically," Travers told me.  And it is important to recognize that the Vuzix Blade smartglass has already become a consumer product, albeit an expensive one. It requires a little bit of out-of-box thinking for the company. Travers said they are currently negotiating with wireless operators to start selling Blade, and he also described a unique package with a golf club out of Buffalo, NY.
"We work with companies like OnCore Golf," he said. "They have this golf ball coming out with it has a Bluetooth link. So the glasses tell you how hard you hit the ball, how far it went, and all this, and they plan to pack it with a golf ball. It's a consumer product. There, in January, people will be able to buy these things and enjoy them as a consumer product. "CES participants next week will be able to check out Blade demonstrations for themselves. Vuzix will hold demos called "A Day of Life with the magazine", which factor in the OnCore Golf product, AccuWeather integration, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and more.
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