How This Augmented-Reality Company Hopes to Compete With Microsoft and Google

Vuzix will introduce this year its sleekest pair of AR glasses.

learn more about Stephen J. Bronner

By Stephen J. Bronner Originally published Jan 23, 2017

Stephen Bronner

While virtual reality is changing the way we watch video, play games and communicate, augmented reality will change the way we work and navigate the world.

Microsoft reportedly shipped the developer version of its Hololens, Google is reportedly working on a follow up to its ill-fated Glass and much buzzed-about startup Magic Leap will also introduce its own AR hardware.

Related: AR and VR Require Better Hardware, Software and Power for Mass Adoption

With two titans and a unicorn startup leaving their footprints in the AR field, how can the much smaller Vuzix compete? By aiming lower, says founder and CEO Paul Travers.

"We come from the perspective of practical," he told me at the company's CES booth. "We don't think you need to land the whale. It's a different approach than most companies."

Indeed, its newest device, the Blade 3000, may just be the first piece of AR hardware to be adapted by tech enthusiasts since the Google Glass. The company is aiming to introduce it to the market for under $1,000 this year, with the price dropping to under $500 in 2018. And unlike the $1,500 Google Glass, which had a design that resembled a one-eyed cyborg, the Blade 3000 looks like a pair of Oakley sunglasses.

Image Credit: Stephen Bronner

The AR glasses, which features a 64 GB storage module to hold its Android-based software, connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone. It also features a camera that measures depth, has sensors to detect movement, GPS and a touchpad to work its interface. The display works by projecting light through the glass to project an image in front of you.

"Our vision to make it so you never have to pull your phone out," Travers said. "It's about connecting the web to the real world."

Related: 5 VR and AR Startups Ready for Explosive Growth

I tried on the glasses and was impressed with the way they fit. During a demo, I was able to see how the device would project text messages, GPS directions and video. It wasn't overpowering my surroundings, so I could imagine walking down a busy sidewalk or even driving with them once I get used to it.

In my profession, I could utilize the Blade 3000 to see questions during interviews and record audio. I could also pull up additional research.

As impressive as the Blade 3000 seems, though, they are still a bit large for glasses. Travers acknowledged this and said the company will work on shrinking the technology.

"It's a real first good kick at the can," he said.

While this is the company's first attempt at a consumer product, Vuzix has a strong enterprise customer base. Its clientele includes DHL, which uses the company's smart glasses to pick packages in warehouses. The company also works with the Armed Forces, which requested an Oakley style pair of glasses so field operatives wouldn't have to risk their lives whenever they opened a laptop in the field.

Image Credit: Stephen Bronner

Travers also sees Vuzix's potential for any company that deals with customers directly.

"Our enterprise business is getting ready to kick into overdrive," he said.

Related: Randi Zuckerberg: Don't Search for That 'Pie-in-the-Sky Mentor'

Vuzix, which was founded in 1997, holds more than 41 patents and has 10 additional patents pending, according to its website. It received a $24.8 million investment from Intel in 2015. Travers had worked at Eastman Kodak but said he left after many of his projects were killed by the company. He first started a business making sound cards in a basement and then sold it.

And even though Vuzix has been around for two decades, he still doesn't consider the company successful.

"If you want to succeed at being an entrepreneur, you just have to not quit, have tenacity," Travers said. "You've got to be willing to hang through the hard stuff."
Stephen J. Bronner

Entrepreneur Staff

News Director

Stephen J. Bronner writes mostly about packaged foods. His weekly column is The Digest. He is very much on top of his email.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Have More Responsibilities at Work, But No Pay Bump? Use This Script to Get the Raise You Deserve.
Black and Asian Founders Face Opposition at All Levels — Here's Why That Has to Change

3 Steps to Building a Brand That Resonates in a Crowded Industry

Here are three key steps to building a brand that stands out.

Business News

A 6-Year-Old Ordered Almost $1,000 Worth Of Grubhub — And Tipped 25% on Each Order

Mason Stonehouse of Chesterfield, Michigan, grabbed his dad's phone and treated himself to chicken sandwiches, ice cream, and more.

Business News

Massive Fire At Top Egg Farm Leaves Estimated 100,000 Hens Dead. What Does This Mean For Egg Prices?

Hillandale Farms in Bozrah, Connecticut went up in flames on Saturday in an incident that is still under investigation.

Money & Finance

Americans Are Underprepared for Retirement. Here's How Small Businesses Can Help Close the Savings Gap.

Half of the American workforce doesn't have access to an employer-sponsored retirement program, yet we are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if we can do so at work — and small businesses can help. Here's how.