Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently said that augmented reality glasses are "what we're trying to get to." After buying Oculus for $2 billion, Zuckerberg knows that smart eyewear can realize the potential of the digital age. "Over the next 10 years, the form factor's just going to keep on getting smaller and smaller, and eventually we're going to have what looks like normal-looking glasses that can do both virtual and augmented reality," Zuckerberg said. "And augmented reality gives you the ability to see the world but also to be able to overlay digital objects on top of that."
Other founders had already reached that conclusion -- Magic Leap's Rony Abovitz, Meta's Meron Gribetz, Osterhout Design Group's Ralph Osterhout and Optinvent's Kayvan Mirza. Meanwhile, Microsoft put tremendous resources into the HoloLens, which is now available as a $3000 developer edition. But one founder who has flown under the radar joined with Atheer to offer perhaps the most advanced AR eyewear device: Atheer AiR. Ryan Fink, founder of
ONtheGO Platforms, joined Atheer last year as VP of Business Development, bringing his gesture-based interface with him.
Since then, Atheer has strengthened its leadership position. In February, it signed a deal with smart glasses company Vuzix to use the AiR Suite for Enterprise. Vuzix believes the platform's advanced gesture and voice detection capabilities will provide greater functionality to its enterprise customers that use M100 and M300 smart glasses. Vuzix stock surged more than 14% on the news. While devices like HoloLens and Magic Leap's yet-to-be-unveiled AR headset have been the focus of the press and started to capture the public's imagination, Atheer has the technology and platform to make inroads in the enterprise and ultimately the consumer space.
AR pioneers have no shortage of ideas about displaying augmented content. The key to adoption has always been functionality -- how does the user control the eyewear and use it as an input device rather than solely output? Fink's interface was originally developed for gesture on handheld devices, and therein lies the challenge for AR eyewear. If the glasses cannot offer a revolutionary hands-free, voice-free alternative to smart phones and tablets, they may not be able to win significant market share from handhelds and ultimately could end up as a niche product category. A more novel interface such as eye gaze may be the key to unlocking the consumer market.