Since Google unveiled Glass in 2012, we’ve seen a handful of more ambitious smart glasses that claim to do a lot more than Google’s gadget. Startup Atheer Labs is the purveyor of one such device.
The company initially grabbed headlines in 2013 when it demoed its One headset at AllThingsD’s D11 conference. Following the conference, Atheer Labs more than doubled its $US100,000 goal on Indiegogo to fund the One in early 2014.
Although the headset was meant to be a consumer device like Glass, the company recently decided to switch gears and target the enterprise field. There’s simply a stronger need for wearable technology in the enterprise field, Soulaiman Itani, co-founder and Chief Scientist at Atheer Labs, told Business Insider. The ultimate goal, however, is to eventually push a pair of smart glasses like the One into the mainstream.
“The PC started with accountants, [and] Blackberry [phones] started with executives that needed to share email,” Itani said, illustrating that technology trends sometimes start in the enterprise market before making their way to consumers.
Itani said he believes this is indeed the case with wearable displays, and that the One and similar gadgets are the next major evolution of the computer.
Wearable displays have already proven useful in operating rooms, and Atheer’s plan is to optimise its wearable display for use in hospitals, construction, and even the aerospace field.
The decision to switch directions was based on early feedback from Indiegogo backers, Itani said.
“We had no direction at that point,” Itani said. “The challenge with consumers is that [they] want something that works in all situations.”
With enterprise, it’s easier to fine-tune your product to be really good at one thing rather than a little bit of everything, Itani explained. Once Atheer’s smart glasses become a hit with enterprise users, the company will have enough feedback to decide which features are most valuable and what needs to be changed for the consumer version.
This software on this enterprise headset would be catered to whichever field it’s being used. A doctor’s smart glasses would be different than those of a construction worker or an electrical engineer. The headset we played with during our demo was ran on Android, and Atheer said it’s capable of running any existing Android app.
Unlike Glass, you interact with Atheer’s tech through gestures. The smart glasses literally display a virtual tablet in front of your face, which you can reach out and interact with. During our demo, I read a magazine and flipped through the pages by moving my hand to the left and right, essentially flipping a virtual page.
The headset’s display was much larger and brighter than that of Google Glass. This isn’t an un-intrusive screen that sits above your eye like you’ll get with Google’s eyewear.
What’s even more interesting, however, is the headset’s 3-D capabilities. I viewed an interactive diagram of organs in the human body in 3-D, which I was able to reach out and move the image around to look at different parts of a human heart. It’s sort of like having a Leap Motion or Kinect strapped to your face.
Although the technology was impressive, I could see how it could become burdensome after long periods of time. My arm became a little tired after my short demo session from reaching out to interact with the virtual screen.
Right now, Atheer’s headset looks a bit bulky and cumbersome, much like other devices of its kind. But Soulaiman doesn’t expect wearables to stay this way for long. In three to four years, he predicts that smart glasses could be nearly as sleek and natural as sunglasses.