News Article

Osterhout Design Group wants to make your next pair of AR smartglasses:
Date: May 25, 2016
Author: Lily Prasuethsut
Source: Wareable ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Osterhout Group of San Francisco, CA

ODG has been around for ages and knows a thing or two about augmented reality
ODG AR smartglasses: What are they?

Augmented reality is still an area that has yet to really show the world what it can do. Beyond apps, we've seen bits and pieces of HoloLens, Meta, Magic Leap, and so forth but nothing's quite ready for the public eye. Google Glass is the closest piece of consumer AR though it didn't take off as expected leaving developers to scratch it and head back to the enterprise drawing board.

That means there's nothing really stopping a little known company from quietly stealing all the AR thunder. Osterhout Design Group, or ODG, has been in the biz for years - almost 20 - and thanks to its CEO and founder Ralph Osterhout, it knows the tech really well.

Having gained some recognition from this year's CES by showing off its R-7 AR glasses, ODG is planning on revealing even more plans on its next set of glasses during AWE in June.

In the meantime, we spoke with the CEO, vice president Nima Shams and COO Pete Jameson about where the company is headed and what the future of AR looks like with a pair of ODG smartglasses.
Why smartglasses now?

With Google Glass and Oculus Rift turning heads, ODG felt like it was time to unveil its own product thus during a Qualcomm event two years ago, where Shams says it finally "told the world" it existed, and showed off the R-6 smartglasses. can have the greatest idea in the world, and if you can't make it at a price people can afford, forget it.

The company was privately held up until this year's CES investing its own money, $90 million in six years without raising outside funds. Shams says the company was able to do this because it was always developing and sending out glasses.

"We were able to do this because we were always shipping product. We were shipping use cases and learning and refining - in lower quantities and slowly increasing over time."

ODG has a long history working with the US government making military grade night vision goggles and is still continuing to work with the government on various projects. It's a proud company in downtown San Francisco that employs a almost a hundred engineers and creators, with Osterhout smack dab in the middle of it all.

The man clearly knows the tech industry and has 32 years worth of ideas about augmented reality in terms of what the people want. Because of his experience, he says people have wondered why he didn't get in the game sooner. His answer? The iPhone. Or more specifically, what the iPhone meant for components.

"Until the iPhone really came out in 2007, there was no phenomenally high volume in cellular devices, or what you call a true smartphone. The more simplistic, cute very functional phones like the analog (were around), then it went digital - which Nokia did a very good job at making consumer phones - but until you got into a real smartphone with complexity, that has a lot more processing power and more memory, and everything - you didn't have an ability to have a market that would drive the component cost down.

"Take eight years ago, how much was 4GB of memory? How much would a dual-core or quad core processor cost? Oh my. You're talking big money...overall component costs wouldn't allow you to come out with a consumer product."

Until the iPhone launched, creating demand for the handset thus set off a chain of events that eventually lowered costs for the guts of the phone making it cheaper for everyone else in the industry too. This in the end, allowed Osterhout to stop thinking about creating the glasses, and start making them especially since he felt like it'd be easier for the public to buy them.

"Having a display on your head with microprocessors is not a new idea at all. The whole point is, you can have the greatest idea in the world, and if you can't make it at a price people can afford, forget it."

Still, it's taken some time for the glasses to get made and the R-7's have stayed firmly in the enterprise sector. The prices could change in the future of course, but for now the R-7's are selling on the higher end at $2,750, which is more than Glass's $1,500 but less than HoloLens' $3000.

Osterhout justifies the price by saying it's a process. The design has to be just right, and it has to have the power of a tablet - except on your face. He also says if they can really do what's promised, people will pay up.