The AR Show: Paul Travers (Vuzix) on Making Small, Lightweight Smartglasses
6:46PM Aug 28, 2019
Welcome to the AR show where I dive deep into augmented reality with a focus on the technology and uses of smart glasses and the people behind them. I'm your host Jason McDowall. today's conversation is with Paul Travers. Paul is the founder and CEO of Vuzix a leading supplier of smart glasses and augmented reality products for both the enterprise and consumer markets. Prior to Vuzix, Paul was an engineer at Eastman Kodak innovating the future of digital cameras. He went on to become a serial entrepreneur having started multiple hardware technology companies, including and sound cards for PCs and USB connectivity products. Vuzix was formed more than 20 years ago. And through it Paul has seen the spatial computing technology evolved from the early days of VR in the mid 1990s. To the highly capable AR smart glasses of today. In this conversation, Paul talks about the market evolution and the current state of the art from Vuzix. As a company Vuzix focuses on the form factor as a critical design element creating the products. And Paul disagrees with the alternative approach.
There's a lot of folks that are building these great big heavy things. And they're thinking that there's a market for them. And I just don't think there is it's going to be small, modest at best, expensive, crazy, big, large headsets are a lot of the mistakes that have been made over a long years now. Not not being negative because I think some of the spatial computing solutions that are out there are amazing pieces of kit. But at 2500 to 30 $500 apiece and big and bulky and hard to wear much longer than an hour. I think that that's a recipe for disaster.
Paul goes on to discuss the use cases that will drive early consumer adoption and the potential impact of Apple releasing their own pair of smart glasses. We also debate the pros and cons of display technologies including DLP, laser beam scanning, and micro LED, as well as the trade offs of having a single display versus glasses with displays covering both eyes. As reminder, you can find the show notes for this and other episodes at our website the AR show com. Let's dive in. Paul, how did you find your way to technology from the farm?
You know, I grew up in northern New York, where farming was probably the number one job you could do sort of being a teacher or maybe working at the aluminum factory, the reduction plant. But anyway, my brother and I, we grew up in a campground, my father owned it. And we had access to all these tools. And we built some of the craziest things from ham gliders to scuba diving equipment to to hovercrafts. And so we always fancied ourselves engineers, and I didn't really like school. And so when the guidance counselor in the 11th grade sits me in the office where there's He's like, you know, Paul, we've looked at, you know, your remedial tests and all this other stuff. And we really think that your best career choice should be to be a farmer. And I want to be a farmer, man, you really don't know that much about me. But in any event, I you know, I ended up going to college, and this is my fourth business now. And it's, it's completely different than I think what the guidance counselor thought my life should be about. So you know, here I am today running a public company, I will admit, I'm not doing as much engineering as I really enjoy doing, because that's the background I come from, frankly. But in many ways, I'm engineering and building the future with the products that are coming out of Vuzix. So it's been a great choice. For me, I think the same thing is true for my reason for leaving Eastman Kodak. I mean, I worked in the research labs for, I don't know, five years making digital cameras. And we were some of the first guys making the silicon that could actually record video and imagery out of a 35 millimeter film back and after those five years, and never brought it to market, so I left some of the guys on my way out the door were like, Are you out of your, you're leaving the mothership. And again, this is my fourth business now. And it's been pretty successful in the technology world building some really cool products, from sound cards, to Universal Serial Bus connectivity products to wearable display tech. So it's been a an interesting history that started with me being a farmer.
Was it about your experiences on the farm? Do you think that sets you apart? As an engineer, as a business leader as an entrepreneur, later in life? What is it you drew from that farming experience?
Yeah, so my uncle was the guy that owned the farm. And when I would visit and work on the farm, I realized that I was really hard working, and, you know, up early, and etc. And so it was fulfilling, certainly, but at the park, it was absolutely fun to build things out of your mind and create the that, you know, you couldn't afford to buy, and to see how things work from a science perspective and a math perspective. And those were my biggest classes that I enjoyed when I was in school. And so my father giving my brother and I the ability to have access to all those tools and the equipment and the likes. It really was mind opening. You know, a lot of my friends didn't know what a table saw was, they didn't know what a milling machine was, they didn't. But I had access to all that stuff. And with that, I think it it really opened up my mind as to what's possible and the things that you could create and creating was fun. And so when I finally got to college, I cared enough by then to take those experiences when I was young, and learn about the math and science that actually made it all work and come together, which worked out pretty well for me in the long run.
Yeah, it's kind of an interesting mix of both constraints and resources that you have access to that really kind of set your perspective, set you on your path.
I was very lucky. My friends didn't grow up in a environment where my you know, my dad needed all this gear in order to keep the park operational. So that was all just there. And he was a good enough guy to actually let us play with it. So
yeah, and no fingers were lost in the process.
Oh, there's stories there too. But
not my I still have all mine. But more than one. There were accidents along the way, but you don't learn without making mistakes.
Yeah. So you've been really dedicated to this particular area of wearable computing, wearable display technology. For a long time. Now it's been 22 years since you started Vuzix. As you noted, it's been Vuzix was the is now the fourth of the company has been involved with many of them entrepreneurial in nature, what was it what was happening back in 1987, and motivate you to start wearable display technology company?
Well, it was actually a little bit earlier than that. So I left these men codec, I built a sound card company and ultimately sold it to a company called Advanced Gravis. And I helped them license that technology to Advanced Micro Devices and put it on silicon motherboards and the likes. And so with that first company, I was kind of hooked on making consumer oriented things that were enjoyable for people. And then I started a Universal Serial less connectivity company. And I sold it the Belkin. And all of that was probably within four years, five years of leaving Eastman Kodak. And in 93, with some overlap here, I started a virtual reality head mounted display company. In fact, if you look up VFX one, you'll see it's this big black helmet that looks like a football helmet. Although it, it's even got the flip up visor, like the latest, the newest version of the HoloLens. And the idea was, we were going to make a consumer device that was the first VR headset, and here at a forum back then 25 $50,000 a piece for US military style devices, I was lucky enough to have a relationship with some folks in in Japan that allowed us access to their little micro displays. And so we were the first guys to make a VR headset. And we had over 100 titles that worked with that headset, you know, titles like quake and Duke Nukem. And I don't know if she can think back to all those. But this was really early in the game. And it was back when graphics adapters really didn't exist on the PC. But it was a lot of fun to play. And we probably sold five or $6 million worth of product and our first quarter. But the marketplace, you know, the processing technology that was just so much that was so early in the game. So I bought back the company from all the outside shareholders in 97. And that was the start of us. Exactly. So we got a long history in the wearable display space. And over those years, the one thing that we've learned is if you make something that's big and bulky, and that's uncomfortable to wear for much more than an hour, you will fail. And, you know, if you look at our products over the years, they've gotten trimmer and slimmer and smaller. And of course the technology's allowed us to do that at the same time. But those are some of the things we've learned along the way, big and bulky. Even VR today, I mean, you put your head in a bucket, and you're you're isolated from the outside world, and these things aren't really light yet. And, you know, they they completely block out the real world. So, you know, our perspective on it today is, especially in enterprise, you have to have something comfortable that you can wear all day. And over all these years, some of the things that we've learned are related to that.
Yeah, you kind of think back over from 97, when you bought back the company, and and you had kind of an evolution of the focus that you're currently executing on today. What have been kind of the major milestone terms that you've seen in the market in that time.
Sure. So we when we started Vuzix, so effectively, in 97, we said, Look, we need to be in a vertical market, that actually means wearable display technology today that can deal with the fact that it's clunky. And so we focused on the US Defense markets. And you know, at the time, we we initially started by making these infrared thermal weapons site engines that go on the back of the light medium having thermal weapons light programs. So we sold the DRS and Raytheon and we made the display engines that allow these thermal digital thermal cameras to be able to see what the camera was seeing some of their digital rights are you somehow you got to have a little display. And they were in the form of a site, as you know, like a scope that you might have on a on a rifle. And the electronics that were in the back of those were things that we made. And we also at the same time made in parallel wearable display product we call tak AI. And it was designed to work with things like AI robots pack bots that you throw into buildings, you could get drone feeds and put them on them, you could plug them into the tough book at these the Special Forces guys used so that you could know you have a personal view and or during the day when you can't see what you're doing, have this view of the robot in the building, etc. And one of the things we learned then was the Special Forces guys came to us and said, Look, we we want to get rid of our laptops when you open these things up. First of all, they're big and bulky to care around. one. Number two, when you open them up, you light up like a Christmas tree. So at night, you got to put a patch over your head and now you don't have any sort of a feel for what's going on around you. They're like we want to replace all of that with a sexy pair of glasses. Oakland's they called it the Oakley gate. They were like if you can make these Oakley glasses, Paul and get through the Oakley gate, half the US military would want to buy these. This is all the way back in you know, early, early 2000s, late 1999. The guys wearing all this wearable tech up with upwards of 300 pounds in the field. They wanted Oakley sunglasses, sexy, lightweight, easy to wear. And the milestones that Vuzix has been pushing for through all of this time is to make that happen. Lightweight, truly wearable along the way. And I think in the VR marketplace, they're trying to get there. I mean, the problem with VR is these massive fields of you in an in the display panel today that has to be fairly large for the optics to be able to support those fields of view, they're still big and bulky, they're getting better, I'd be the first guy to say it. And some of the VR experiences are pretty awesome. But most of the things that users have done over the years after our initial VR product has been products that allow you to use this technology in the real world at the same time. So the milestones that we're seeing our products that are, you know, literally more on the HR side, we're you're doing real world things. So you're getting access to information, you know, you're in the real world, and you're getting access to information that helps you do something in the real world. And where we've been successful and where most of our business is coming from these days is that concept, it's not the immersive sort of things. It's the I'm in the real world, I need access to information to do a better job. Most of that information either sits in sensors in the IoT of the world Internet of Things, or it sits on the the server that when the digital form someplace. And getting that pushed to where the guys are going to get worked on. This is where we're seeing success, and where we've taken most of our business efforts. So it's for Vuzix anyway, mostly on the HR side of the business, the augmented reality side, then on the VR side of
the business, as you saw that early military oriented opportunity, emerge and evolve. You then saw the enterprise opportunity kind of pick up in the wake of that initial. And that's where today we're seeing a lot of companies truly leaning in, they seem to be well into some interesting and viable proofs of concept and on their way to deploy these things at larger scale. Because they see that that real value there in ways that you noted like, actually in the job in the moment, truly useful. How is it that these companies are leveraging the sort of technology that you're creating for them,
let me just give you a really simple example. You're on an oil rig, there's a problem with a pump on the oil rig. So the oil rig is not running. So they need to send the guy out. That's a technician that knows how to fix this pump, because it's not an everyday job, right. So they get a guy, they put them on a helicopter, after he flies into the city where he can is close enough, you know, maybe $25,000 later with all the equipment, all the gear, he's finally on the on the oil rig to help make the repair.
And the rig hasn't been running for the last 24 hours.
How much oil didn't get pumped? How many millions of dollars is that? What they're doing now is they're giving the guy on the oil rig, a pair of glasses, smart glasses that have the cameras in the front that are Wi Fi connected. So the guy looks at the pump and the expert instead of getting on an airplane, sitting in a nice air conditioned office with all of the information on the pump. And he helps this guy with a remote assist call. And literally within an hour or two he can be up and operational saving, literally not just 50 or 100,000 bucks, but it can be millions of dollars worth of downtime, instantly fixed by having this remote access capability. And you haven't been able to do that in the past because having a tech certified devices, you know, handheld devices, many of these jobs, their mobile workers that need to work with their hands. It's only now where all of the tech, the bandwidth, the ability to stream live in real time. The CPUs are small enough to in these really small form factors now that all this stuff is coming together to make that work. That's one that's one example the trip avoidance and the equipment oxide. There's also reduction in errors by using these glasses, we have companies that that you're using them in aircraft to do assembly operations and error can get reduced to zero. And faster turn time picking parts out of warehouses can be as much as 60% faster, using smart glasses, along with a wrist mounted or a finger mounted barcode scanner, then trying to do it with a handheld barcode scanner. And then there's safety. I mean, we work with companies like Verizon, and they might have a guy that's up a pole. And you know, he's new on the job, or he's only been there for three weeks. And he doesn't remember the exact thing that he needs to be doing up there the sequence. And so what he tried to do is use their phone and hold the phone up and pointed at it to get remote support. And you just think about that when you're going to pull that's not safe. Whereas our glasses, literally your hands free still, you just look with your eyes like you normally would. And you can get a remote support call just like the one I described on the oil rig earlier, where the person that is the expert, instead of him having to be out in the field with you for the month or three to train, you can just remote in every now and then when you need that help. So it's safer. And you've got the trip avoidance and you've got the training because they often use the glasses to also train you on doing those jobs.
With a great pile of benefits. Let's jump back for just a second to the reducing errors. Can you describe a little bit more detail how ultimately wearing a pair of smart glasses reduces the error rate to add or near zero.
So in this one case, I'm thinking of it's an Accenture effort that they did with Airbus. And they have a guy that's in the aircraft and instead of reading a blueprint, or a PDF, on the layout for where the seats goes, they've instrumented the plane so that he can hold the stick in his hand in the in the computing systems and the plane knows where the stick is. And so he scans the work order, the work order tells them okay, we're going to do this business class row seats HIJ, or whatever they are the far right side, right. And he literally goes with the stick, you know the game, the kids game where they would say you're getting warmer, you're getting warmer, it's just like that. And when you get it in the right spot where you're supposed to mark for this first seat position, it tells you you're right on it, then you've dropped the marker and spot, you do a checkmark on it. It does one last check to confirm it, it takes a picture puts it in the database, and it is perfectly where it belongs. There's no interpretation now of Oh, that was 3.2 meters, not 3.1 meters. You know, there's no expertise that's required to read the blueprints. It's literally just step, step, step, step, step step, because you're doing it that way. You can rip through all these markings in fraction of the amount of time at the same time. And they're all perfect.
Yeah, so there is speaking both to speed improvement, as well as error reduction to the double whammy on the employee or manufacturing sort of use cases. One six, the amount of time one sixth, that's amazing. And then on the kind of the pick and place the warehouse sort of use case, they're really the focus is also speed primarily that maybe accuracy is a secondary benefit as well.
Yeah. And they also do things like check for inventory counts if the box is supposed to be empty. And the computer system says that, and you ask the guy, are there zero devices or inventory left in the box? That's it, you've done your inventory counts on the fly?
Yeah, that's awesome. And are these you know, one sixth of the time, so six x speed improvement there on the manufacturing side, other other ROI numbers are able to share?
Yeah, I mean, there's a ton of them, it based upon the kind of software that's being run folks and picking are anywhere from 20% to let me be honest, in some cases, 8%, all the way out to the 60% number. And I say that because there's a lot of different warehouse picking software, we work with some companies like legit the view, and they do what's called a pic to light or a put to light. And what that means is if you follow the warehouse industry, they often have walls, with with all of these inventory holes on a shelf effectively with a light and the light that you're supposed to pick from you'll pick up the cart, you'll scan the car, it knows that you're supposed to pick x y&z things out of the wall, and it'll highlight the wall in green, the LED where you're supposed to be picking from and the quantity that you need to pick from. So these walls are expensive, you might imagine because each one of these bins has got a number count associated with it. And it's got an LED green or red if you're supposed to be picking from it. And it all has to be customized and programmed based upon the things that are being picked for that day. What logistics does is they do all that in software, and they use the AR glasses to literally look at the wall and put virtual versions of those lights and pick quantities. So with them, they can pick significantly faster. One in number two, they can do it with a piece of software and a very inexpensive headset compared to $100,000 picked a light wall. Wow. But each one of these as you can imagine, they're different applications running to do this function. There are other companies that use a glove or a finger scanner and use the glasses as the tool to confirm quantities, and to go through a pic list and show the pikelis. So you know, that's another way to do it. And there's others that as you move along that's actually making. Yeah, I can't get into that. But there's there's all kinds of different software and companies that are writing, picking applications to solve different picking application concepts and environments.
Yeah. So here, you noted you're working with a software partner. Is that true? Also on the remote expertise sort of area where they're trying to bring the remote experts bear on on a local problem?
Yep, we work with companies like ama and France, we work with companies like upscale up Max, many of them have this remote assistant feature built in us, it's also has a very basic remote assistant piece of software that we offer. It doesn't have near the feature sets of some of these other systems. But for smaller companies, it's a really easy way to get up and running, you might have five guys in the field. They're repairing air conditioning units, you get a new guy, he can easily his boss can check in on him during the day help him fix things if he's having problems. So it's a much simpler version. So yeah, there's maybe 10 or 15 companies that do this remote assist software.
Yeah, that's awesome. So this, it's really important for you then ultimately, to really think about the ecosystem as a whole. And how Vuzix fits into that for the various sized customers. Whether that are a small shop, as you just described are very large entity, we are providing some or more of the different pieces. In a larger workflow. We're often working with some other partner and ecosystem.
That's correct. It's never just Vuzix, it's well. There's a rare cases that it's just Vuzix, but it's often Vuzix with software partners. We have several hundred plus developers that have written software to run on our platform. And each one of those are out selling their wares and their solutions into markets from healthcare, to warehousing to you know, you name it.
Yeah. And you have two core product lines. And I might be speaking over overstating this, but the way that I kind of break it down is you have the emissaries device, which is really meant to be integrated into a hard hat, safety glasses, some other mounting system that sits on your head. And the other is the Vuzix Blade, which is all in one device meant for consumers or even some enterprises as well, is that a fair way of breaking it down?
I think that's a good way of looking at it. I mean, the blade is the beginnings of a series of products that will come. How about this they both of these devices, the emissaries and the blade series are intended to be an evolution of solutions. So today we have the M 300 XL. And we have a product called the M 400. Which is coming out here within the next couple of months. The M 300 XL is an Intel based solution. It runs Android six I believe the M 400 is the next generation of it, which will run the latest Qualcomm XR one platform. And with that, it's faster video performance. It's less power consumption. There's a running the latest version of Android, I mean, there's a big step up with the with the M 400. And these are binocular style devices. They're kind of like a computer stick that slides on to a bunch of different accessories. As you mentioned, hard hats, they can be left eye mounted or right I mounted users have a tendency to be either left or right eye dominant. And if you are left eye dominant, and you can only put the display in front of your right eye, many people can't even see it. So the series of mounting accessories that we've built are designed to go left or right I they can go on hard hats, they can go with headbands, they can go with glasses that are safety glasses that you can get your script for. We've also got mounts that will go over the top of your regular glasses, we have a series of ways of using these things that really make them easy to deploy for the customer. And as I said it's m 400 right around the corner. You will soon start to see em thousand series products from Vuzix. So an M 4000 as an example, which will use Vuzix's wave guides. So I mentioned earlier on when we were talking that US Special Forces guy said can you make Oakley style sunglasses. And Vuzix has spent a lot of time on the optics and the technology to get us to the point to where we have optics now that are, you know, one millimeter thin, that looked like a just a simple slight window pane, much like a regular pair of lenses that you have on your glasses. And what they allow you to do is inject the light of an image in the corner of it, it bounces around until it gets in front of your eye. There's a diffraction grading on the surface or a volume hologram. And that, how's the late to come out in front of your eye and project the image out in space in front of you. These wave guides allow us to build optical systems that will fit in things that look an awful lot like conventional glasses, which is what's in our blade today. But you'll also see us employing this technology in RM series products also. So there'll be binocular wave guide based. And the beautiful thing about it is there's no occlusion. And what I mean by that is when you look through the M 400. Right now, it has a small field of view, relatively speaking. And when you see inside the eyepiece, you can't see what's on the other side unless the camera happens to be running. With the wave guides there see through just like a window, so there's no occlusion. So it's a safer solution with bigger fields of view at the same time. And so you'll see down the road RM series evolve into em thousand series, which will be sporting views acts as wave guys. And then on the blade side, our Vuzix blade is our first pair of glasses that look an awful like a pair of Oakley style sunglasses. What's nice about the blade is when you put the glasses on and you've got them turned off, you look through them. And it's just like looking through a regular pair of glasses or sunglasses. The field of view is big, it's round. It's nothing occluded from the horizon line up like many of the conventional optical systems that are out there right now, literally, you put these on and you think you're wearing glasses. And when you put the image on, it's just magically appears out in front of you with this great big window that you're looking through like a regular pair of glasses, but this image floating out in space, and that makes for really cool glasses with a really cool vision experience. And the blade today currently looks a lot like a bear vocalise they're a little bit bigger than that. But we're working on technology that will allow us to shrink it and push it to the point to where we think they're going to look a lot like a pair of Kingsman style glasses from the movie, The Kingsman,
very nice. And the blade is a really impressive product regulations on on that speed of engineering there. you'd mentioned indirectly, some competitors, there are alternative designs where you have a top firing display space, it's above the eye, and there's a bunch of optics to kind of hang out over the eye, in order to get that image ultimately bounced and redirected into your eye. And as you know, this kind of a scenario where the horizon is occluded, you're blocked from seeing kind of what's happening above you in any sense, because that's where all the hardware is sitting, as you can, looking through that pair of glasses.
Yes, that's correct. And as much as that, as much as that is hard to describe to somebody, I can only say that you can really tell when you put them on, it's not natural, it's, it's like having a Snickers bar. That's, you know, right at the center of your vision when you're looking straight forward, up. And with that blockage if they don't feel or were like regular glasses at all.
So in your sort of wave guides, one of the challenges that we've seen with wave guides is that, in order to do a full color display, you need multiple wave guides, you might have one that's just a hair over a millimeter. But in order to get red, green, and blue, sometimes you put two colors in one and one color in a second, you need multiple layers of the wave diet in order to get a full color sort of experience. How is your approach different? What's special about your approach relief guys versus others?
Well, so we've got the wave guides now so that we can make them as thin as point eight millimeters point eight, amazing, they're gotten a lot thinner. We do employ stacking the wave guides. There's one company that holds the patents to that technology today. And it's a you know, from Nokia, and we've got licenses to employ that concept. And we've got a lot of intellectual property around how we actually do this, though, we were not taking light and, you know, putting it into the wave guide straight on, we can support things like Chevron and tilt angles in the wave guides, we stack, when you're doing something like 28 degrees feel of you, you actually can support a full color 28 degree field of view with just a pair of wave guides in the stack. So 2.8 millimeter, you know, wave guides ends up to be a pretty thin stack still, and the 28 degrees. So there's a lot of debate today around field of view. And many, many companies believe that you need 100 plus degree fields of view, even more if you can get it and I contend that many of the applications today don't need that. And in fact, you see some videos of augmented reality where the world is filled with AR crap.
Right hyper reality video is a great example of Yeah, dystopian version of the future.
Yes, and it's just not needed to do so many things today. And I'm a big believer that down the road, you know, dinosaurs and whales coming at a gymnasium and all that stuff's going to be amazing stuff. But that's a lot to do with the entertainment side of what this stuff is about the utility side of it. Believe me, if it's too big a field of view, it gets hard to use even imagine a VR display where you've got information in front of you, and you got to look up into the right in order to make something happened. mean that it just gets exhausting over time, you can imagine, you know, wrapping a display all the way around your head and trying to do something where the machine and the equipment is out in front of you. So the smaller fields of you, I think there's a big market for solutions. In that 28 degree field of view. I've also believe there's a big market for them, it's bigger fields of view, and Vuzix is working on approaching both of those solutions. On the on the stacking side, if you want a 40 degree field of view, it is better to have three in the stack without without doubt. That said, if you want to get over 40 degree fields of you, you really need to come up with a better way to make the difference engines work. Because the display engines today are typically made from front with displays. And the front LED display needs to have a red, blue and green LED there operates like a flashlight. And so what you do is you put the flashlight, the red light on it goes through this optics chain behind the display, it hits a beam splitter, a cube goes down on top of the display comes back off of the display and goes out the front of the display engine through a column eating optic which projection image into the wave guide. This is a big complex pile of stuff. And if you want to get a bigger field of view, that projection lens needs to get closer and closer to the display which makes it very, very difficult for for big fields of view because you just can't get by the prism that physical optics can't get focal, it's short enough. The other thing is, in order to make big fields of you need more than one of these displays to drive the wave guide to get the larger fields of view. That is it. This is one way to do it. And so the tile these things you need displays that are tiny, and you can use more than one of them and have multiple inputs to the wave guide. And for Vuzix is thinking we want to get glasses that look like the Kingsman style glasses. And so the display needs to be the light source by itself. And that's kind of the direction that Vuzix is heading we were big believers in micro LED technology to get these things to be very, very large fields of view, like 90 plus degree fields of view, we think we need multiple inputs, some stacking at the same time, and some tiling. And if you had a point two inch display, or a point two, four inch display that was 720 P. And you had a few of them on the side of the wave guide, you could get really big fields of view and tiny, tiny packages, because what happens now is the display projects by itself, each pixel its its own micro LED. So you don't need any of that flashlight stuff on the back end. And the lens itself goes right up to the display. So it's display lens, you're done. So the other thing that's cool about this is the field of view can be larger with shorter focal length, which means the display and the lens get closer and closer together, the bigger the field of view is. So all of this adds up to smaller size engines, smaller size wave guides, still stacked but stacked for a a tiled sort of a display, or you're going for 3438 degree fields of you just in a really simple tiny package that again fits in this Kingsman style. So that's ultimately where Vuzix is going. Blade 1234 you can imagine is coming the technology around the industrial designs, if I showed you some of our latest stuff, it's it's just, it's gorgeous. It's easier to get different sizes and shapes and frames and colors because we're using conventional optics technology, excuse me, technology out of the eyeglasses marketplace to deal with the frames and stuff. And so you'll see from Vuzix, sexier blades trimmer and slimmer and more and more capable over time and packages that get to be pretty amazingly slim.
On the area of micro LED, you'd announced a partnership with Plessey, which is a UK based company that's trying to crack the nut on micro LED, which is proven to be a very challenging problem. What does that kind of relationship look like for you visits as a company is really primarily focused on delivering the full rig the full, well designed engineered solution that incorporates all of these key ingredients. One of them you have is you noted patents from Nokia, in order to develop you have a lot of your own IP around how you execute those patents on the wave guys themselves, which is the way of getting the light into your eyes from the display. And then you're working with outside companies, at least in this case, the micro ality side in order to deliver the the component that generates the light the display engine itself, including controlling each one of those LEDs, and they're you're working with Plessey, how does that fit into your strategy?
You just described lot of different science and technology that all has to work together to make this thing turn into the pair of glasses that everybody wants. And so Vuzix has has realized that from the very beginning, we're we're really an optics company. That's good at system level integration. So we've got our own wave guide. tool mastering equipment here in Rochester. We've got our own replication equipment here in Rochester. We've got roboticists manufacturing, in the back, we do all of the chemistry associated with making the wave guides and the polymers, etc. That's done here in Rochester. And the current display engines are designed by Vuzix, we have our own IP around it, the way the display engines work with the pupil matching into the wave guides, we have IP on all of that. And we have been pushing to get to the point to where we can get a smaller display engine that replaces these front lead systems. Because we believe that's all part of the system that will really make this work in the end. It's not just the steak of a micro led for a micro LED. There are backlinks people have today that they have micro led us on that are 10 ATP that are their big, almost an instant diagonal, an inch diagonal micro LED display will not make a sexy pair of glasses. It doesn't solve the problem. There's a lot of physics, physical size issues, there's, you know, how do you deal with even the heat that's generated in all of these systems. And so the relationship between Vuzix and policy is related to Plessey building for Vuzix a solution that we've specified. So they're making for us a micro LED display engine that we believe is needed to make the sexy look and feel. And it's really hard to get into a lot of details there. You can look up Plessey, they're making green LEDs today they're making blue LEDs, they've got them down to, you know, four micron and size. So they're tiny, they're quite efficient, even at that size. But it's not all together yet. And you know, pieces and parts all still coming together. But the idea here is we're working with them to help them get for Vuzix, the kind of display that we believe we need to make these things looking rock like a regular pair of glasses.
Yeah, that's great. And from pluses perspective, I'm sure it's fantastic to have a company who actually is in market with real customers delivering real devices be able to guide them on what it means to build something that's useful for the market,
as well. Without doubt. I mean, if you think about I'm sure they're working with other companies, but many of the other companies that they would be working with don't share anything other than I just want this little piece, I'm not telling you about the rest of the system level stuff. Whereas with the Vuzix it's a partnership between us and policy, so they're learning a lot. But we're getting what we need out of it at the same time. And, you know, it's not inexpensive to do these things. And so, you know, Vuzix has been building around fab. But we do feel like we have a really tight relationship with Plessey to get what we need out of their bags.
As you noted, you have been delivered that today's light engine is a digital light processing sort of engine that has the the benefits and the complications that you're describing in terms of how you have to bounce that light around in order for it to properly be colored in the right spot at the right moment in time. And ultimately inserted into the wave guide. that technology has been the standard really for quite a long time. There's some companies working with outcasts. And as you noted, the dream really there's a lot of potential a lot of enthusiasm around micro led as maybe the ideal sort of technology to solve the set of parameters or criteria that would make for a kinsmen like pair of glasses as you described Bible for smart glasses. But one of the other technologies that's out there is laser beam scanning. What what's your take on laser beam scanning and its potential to solve this sort of problems? Do you like it better or worse than micro led?
I don't like it better at the moment. I mean, wave guides, there's a bunch of characteristics of wave guides that very narrow band light is not great to work with one. Number two, the scanning systems get caught complicated, you need multiple scanners and the likes in order to get the higher resolution solutions. You know, I look at the HoloLens to design right now. And I think it's it's got issues with speculum, and I, I'm being honest here, and then I haven't had a chance to look at it myself. But I've gotten some feedback, it's got there's challenges to make it perfect. None of this stuff is easy, quite frankly. But if I had to pick between the level of challenges associated with a micro LED, if you could actually make one. And the level of challenges with a scanning system, I really like the path to the micro led better. I think it can be smaller. In the end, if you can get the efficiency up, I think it's going to package way better. And I don't think you're going to have the issues associated with lot of the laser oriented things associated with laser scanning. There is also potential safety issues not to throw a controversial topic here. But if you think about how fast you have to scan a laser, paint a HD image out in front of you, if the laser stopped scanning partway through even for a short period of time, that's a lot of power that's on one pixel. And so and I know that everybody claims that they've got great safety systems they put in place and you know, fail safes and those kinds of things. But it does raise the question about I seediness. And again, I'm not casting aspersions on the Microsoft product, because they're using laser beam scanning, I just think it's way more complicated. And it has a lot of its own issues that a micro LED will not have, you know.
So there is right now on the market. And you noted the HoloLens to is using laser beam scanning, the North focus is also using laser beam scanning, it's got some significant challenges and my own bias towards my quality, I'm sure speaking a little bit but as in the back of my mind is, as I say these things, but it seems as you noted that there are some very legitimate challenges across the set of attributes that compromises laser beam scanning, but they might be better than than what has come before in terms of making LCD super tiny, they'll cost sort of based system and DLP. Maybe there's some notable benefits over those over even micro LED. But Michael OLED is not really well suited for air smart glasses that you actually intend to wear in a sort of useful, productive environment. It seems like micro led once somebody is able to put all the pieces together and and deliver that at some sort of reasonable cost and scale seems like the answer to the set of problems that surpasses kind of lay out there for a display system.
And that's our feelings. You know, without some sort of pupil expansion, the the kinds of things that are being done by North are a challenge, I mean, you have to be fitted to use the glasses, and even when you're fitted, if they move at all the pupil to your eye or the scanner scans is so small that you lose the image quickly. And it's a quite low resolution device to begin with. I kudos to North though I think they've done a great job on a lot of stuff. But I do think that they need to make some changes to their ultimate optics system in order for it to be more broadly accepted. But then they've still got the issues of the speckle and all those things that laser imagery has just yet people are used to looking at pretty video. And it's hard to come by. So I tend to agree with you. From the complexity right on through to the final performance, I think, if we can get micro led us to come together like they ought to. It's going to be a when
you think about ultimately how many displays you need to make for a great experience. The products you're shipping today are binocular. As you noted, they have a display over one eye. And then as you look to the future, do you think about binocular and and how do you think about the pros and cons between having one display versus two displays as you develop your products?
Yes. So no doubt that they're both options views X has by knocking systems that we built in the past, and we have some wave guide based binocular systems here at the office. The negative to buy an ocular systems is the alignment, the pixel alignment, etc, that's required to make a good experience, one size fits all large boxes and all that are challenges and they tend to stress the industrial design. In other words, you can't have a lot of flex in the center of the of the frames of the glasses. If you do it's out of alignment every time one person to the next puts them on. And so you have to make the frames much more robust. To make them one size fits all they get big for the guy that's smaller. So you end up with this odd looking design just yet. Now Vuzix is doing a lot of cool things in this regard that ultimately we think will help mitigate that. But still, it creates some challenges today. The interesting thing that we found is in in non occluded displays, a binocular product behaves differently than a closed one. And then occluded display, you're presenting something to the users I that the other is not seeing anything about. So the right eye, if it's looking through this occluded thing, it's seeing just the display, no overlay, nothing on the backside of the display none of the real world. And in the other eye, it's just seeing the real world when you put the blade on by way of example, if you shut the display off, both eyes are seeing exactly the same thing. There's no stick, there's no occluded lens, there's nothing in the way that's causing your right either dominant I to take a notice of it and focus on. So when you do turn the display on your mind, even if your left eye dominant has a tendency to fuse these images reasonably well. It overlays the bright information that's in the non dominant eye, reasonably well, it takes a small amount of getting used to for some people, but almost everybody can do it. And what's nice about them an ocular display is it really easy to make one side, it's all to make different sizes, let them flex and look more like regular displays. And so from an industrial design perspective and binoculars easier. I will also say many of the companies and the people that we work with, they don't want cables to a phone. And so you need to put the processors and everything else in the glasses and the batteries, and a binocular display to fit all of that in a pair of glasses is a bit of a challenge today. And one of the nice things about the blade is the electronics are on one side and the display engines are on the other and the batteries are in the temples. And so it all balances well. When you put two displays up there that are the size of the Cobra display and the blade you don't have enough space. But with a micro led engine, that's a whole different story. Because the literally the current display that's in the blade will shrink to 20% of its size. When we have micro la vs. one fifth the volume.
Yes, yeah, that's significant savings, especially when you're dealing with bearing all that weight on the bridge of your nose and your years, which were not meant to be weight bearing parts of our body. That's a big deal. Yep, agreed. As you have seen this industry mature over the last 20 years, has there been any key points, you've changed your mind about like something that you had a strong perspective on early on. And you've as the industry has evolved, your perspective is has dramatically changed on a particular point.
I mean, without doubt, when I first built the VR headset, I couldn't imagine why everybody just wouldn't want to do this all the time step inside the digital world. And it changes everything. And when you begin to realize the technical issues associated with that, the the disassociation, I'm not sure if that's the right word, but the whole idea of you're moving in the digital space, but you're not in the real space, those disconnects and things taken as a whole. The fact that nearer objects and farther objects don't change focus inside the glasses for you, in all of these things add up to a pair of glasses that people will use, but they don't use them all the time.
You know, I remember Lawnmower Man and I was like, everybody's going to be Lawnmower Man.
Kind of a thing. And you know, the reality of it is when you actually think about what works in the real world and how people will use these tools. It was an It was a game changing thing for me. I mean, we're working for the US military, we're solving problems for them, that don't need the VR headset that were there were so useful, just having a HUD. And so that revelation for us to move away from the VR side of the business, even though I'm convinced VR is going to be big, I just think it's going to be much bigger than the AR space. And I did not think that way. I didn't think about AR at all, actually when we first started. But that that really has become a focus for Vuzix that we didn't have to begin with.
So you disagree with Marc Andreessen when he made the comment that people want to escape their miserable reality as it is today. And some are, some are just themselves and in VR, as opposed to actually being productive and better engaging with the real world that they live in every day.
I hate to be put on the spot disagreeing with a guy like that. But
with that, it might have been advised comment given some of their investments, but but he's also very smart
guy. I mean, there's no doubt people like the thing they like to disappear and play. I mean, kids play PlayStation. And you know, video games, hours on end hours, right? But you don't see him do that in VR today. Yeah, they'll play for an hour. Oh, that was so cool. And then they're off playing their regular first person shooter, which by the way, they're not buried in another world. They're talking to their friends online. They're being very social. I mean, gaming today as a social experience, even though it is, you know, done through a computer.
Yeah, absolutely. As you noted, VR is becoming more pervasive, it's being used, but it's not being used as much as other gaming platforms for a variety of reasons. What do you think of the hurdles to broad consumer adoption for AR smart glasses?
Well, I think first of all, in enterprise, the hurdles are being overtaken, I mean, it's people are starting to deploy, they're starting to use them in real fashion, and they're seeing good ROI. And the like, I think it will happen more and more as the form factors get lighter, and they get more akin to what people really want to wear. But it's happening, I think it's inevitable and enterprise today, on the consumer side, you know, I don't think it's about necessarily dinosaurs and the likes, I think, the utility. And finally, the field, the look and feel of me, people are vain, they, they don't like to look stupid. It's that simple. And, you know, when the iPhone first came out, and maybe even now people would get their phones and they, they clean them like they were jewelry and stuff, and it was a jacked up like a fashion statement, right. And so I think you got to get a product that's wearable that has that feel one, and then the utility has to be there, the whole idea of being able to leave your phone in your pocket, I think is going to be a big deal. So you got your glasses on, you got your watch your phones in your pocket, at some point, I don't even think you'll have a phone, everything will run in the cloud, there'll be 5g connected, you want to make a phone call, it will be a 5g cloud connected thing where the phone service is actually running in the cloud along with Nvidia graphics controllers that are running in the cloud that are snapping wonderful imagery in the glasses themselves. But it's that look and feel and then the utility to where you can leave your phone in your pocket. And you know, there's several examples, I think of that even with the blade right now that are coming along. You can with the blade today, receive text messages while you're skiing down the hill, take a stop, tap a button answer with a canned response. Or shortly you'll be able to just tap and say yeah, let's meet down at the bar, boom, and it takes the specs spit each to text and flips it out to the person you don't take your phone out. You're on the hill, you take a picture, boom, you share it socially, you mean all of these things with your phone in your pocket. And when that starts to happen, and it's literally a push button away, the blade runs Alexa as an example. And I can tap the side of the glasses and say Alexa, can you get me an Uber please, in the oversize up 10 minutes later. And all of these things make it so you can leave your phone in your pocket and be in the real world. And I think when that's done well and have a pair of glasses that are sexy. Those simplest of experiences, I think will become the beginnings of the killer app as it were leaving your phone in your pocket.
Yeah, do you really think it's around the the cases of doing social expression communication, sharing those sorts of things will be those early use cases that will help drive that consumer adoption,
those things and some specialized verticals. For instance, with the DJI drone today, and we there's a bunch of them that we support. The way drones are supposed to work is you're supposed to maintain line of sight to the drone all the time. And when this when we're done talking, I'll send you a link to a video that's going up here shortly from Vuzix from a professional drone videographer guy and with the glasses on, you look out and of course, you can see the drone flying in front of you because it's just a pair of sunglasses. But when you turn the video feed on, you're seeing the video feed of what the drone is seeing in the glasses at the same time you're looking at the drone as it flies by. And this gentleman equates that to being the same kind of safety of having dropped your phone. Because the way drones work today, as you look down at the screen that's on the controller or the phone that's plugged into the controller to watch what the drone feed is doing. But when you're doing that your eyes are off the drone. Until these drones are big man, they can hurt people, right. And if you're not watching how your flying the drone, it's like driving down a road at 50 or 60 miles an hour trying to pick your phone up off the floorboards. That's how he equates it. And so this is a killer application where the glasses are on and it makes drone flying so much better. It's really a pretty cool experience.
That's really interesting. I've seen Epson is another company that is paid attention to that drone pilot sort of use case and seen some good adoption in that arena. isn't a such a wonderful use case that sort of specialized drone pilot one. Yeah. Do you have a sense, as we kind of attempt to prognosticate? And I guess, when the market is going to happen? Do you have a sense for when you think adoption at scale is going to happen in our small classes,
I think these verticals are going to start boiling and happening a little bit here in a little bit. They're all over the place, the bigger mass market adoption timeframe, I think the glasses need to get to a point to where this next gen displace technologies available. You know, if you're golfing, we have a partner here in Buffalo called encore golf, and they make a Bluetooth golf ball. And when you hit the golf ball, it tells you how hard you hit it where it's going. It's not in the market yet, but it's coming. You know those kinds of applications where you learn how to golf better or you fly a drone folks will buy the blade today to do that. But the mass market where every other person is buying them, it needs to be a step up in the in the look and feel. And I also think around the ecosystem. The ecosystem will come. There's lots of companies out there working on that. But the optics in the display engines need to take this next step forward in the using micro LED is in my opinion, before it becomes that really big thing. Probably part of the reason why there's all this brouhaha around Apple saying that they're they're taking a step back from the market or whatever I mean, Apple does that kind of stuff every now and then where they kind of mislead and in push things along one way or the other. I do not believe for a minute Apple is taking their eye off of this ball. But I do think that they're not going to come out with something until it's right.
You know, in there, you think the display system is really the key ingredient that needs to be better than it is today in order to enable that sort of right form factor. It's one of the biggest pieces, not the only piece, but it's one of the biggest pieces. The speaking of Apple when Apple announces whatever it is that they're coming to market with. What does that mean for Vuzix?
It only helps Vuzix. First of all, Apple's not going to be the only player, we got a pilot technology that works so well in this space, where a hell of a lot of folks. And when Apple comes, all that's going to do is make every other competitor of Apple wake up and say what are we doing. And that just makes it easier for us to build relationships,
they're helping to educate the market moving everybody forward,
the minute they come out with a product, every one of their competitors in the space are going to be in a panic, just think about that. The phone is going to be replaced with a pair of glasses before this is all said and done. And I know a lot of people would think I'm smoking dope on that. But you know, my mom still has a phone wire to the wall, I get that. But the things that you can do with a pair of smart glasses will change the world in so many ways. And the youth of the world will embrace this, like no tomorrow. And that's the beginnings of, you know, 1015 years from now, this is the norm. And if you're not fighting to win in that you are going to be the loser.
Well said, Let's wrap up with a few lightning round questions here. Okay, what commonly held belief about spatial computing Do you disagree with,
there's a lot of folks that are building these great big, heavy things. And they're thinking that there's a market for them. And I just don't think there is it's going to be small, modest, at best, expensive, crazy, big, large headsets are a lot of the mistakes that have been made over a long years now. Not not being negative, because I think some of the spatial computing solutions that are out there are amazing pieces of kit. But at 2500 to 30 $500 apiece, and big and bulky and hard to wear much longer than an hour. I just think that that's the recipe for disaster. And there's a lot of people that are spending a lot of money doing that maybe the ultimate goal is to morph that into something smaller. But for views x, we're going from the other direction where we're starting with the small,
starting small remember canon in the elf cameras. Back in the day, I was one of those folks who love to taking pictures, but was never willing to actually lug around any sort of pro gear. And I was an early adopter of the elf camera, which was the teeny tiny little camera. This is back when we actually carried dedicated cameras. Yep. And I gotta stick with it. And it same was true with laptops. I was one of those consumers that for me, the form factor was a primary driver of the utility and in my willingness to adopt it and lug it around. And so I definitely appreciate that the approach that you're taking there, thank you have the potential uses of AR Which one are you most excited about?
I mean, here's the thing of it, ar is going to change the world, the general idea of connecting the digital world to the real world opens up use cases that we can't even imagine yet. And so how do you pick from things you'd haven't even seen yet, what really turns your crank and where it's going. So for us, I believe that AR in the right form factor, and we're getting closer and closer is going to be very positive for social change. You know, today people are sitting at the dinner table with their wife, girlfriend or children and everybody's got their home phone, their phones jammed in their face, they're walking down the street, phone jammed in their face, the idea of taking spatial computing augmented reality, putting it all in the real world now, so that you're still in the real world is going to make it so people don't solidarity, jam their faces in their phones. And that's social change, along with the amazing experiences that are going to come i think is going to be better for every man in the in the long run. And maybe that's an altruistic thinking on my part, because I'm supporting an industry that some people think it's going to do exactly the opposite. I don't believe that's going to be the case. And, you know, I think there's so many cool other applications, we described some here, just flying drones and golf balls, and etc, etc. But I just think generally this idea is going to be game changer across the board.
What book Have you read recently that you found to be deeply insightful or profound?
I don't spend that much time reading books for myself that are just like, you know, enjoyment and those kinds of things. I I primarily read technical books or research reports. I don't have I don't have a good answer for you here other than the fact that I think, you know, there's a lot of technology journals and stuff on micro led stuff these days and holographic and the fact of optics and I tend to spend my time with my head in those things. So
what's your What's your favorite resource on the display in optics, technology?
Oh, the your your guys do a really good job, some of the your report stuff, etc. I mean, some of these guys are, they're really understand what's going on in the marketplace and all the issues associated with it. So yeah, we pay for some of those reports to make sure that we know the latest.
If you could sit down and have coffee with a 25 year old self, what advice would you share with 25 year old Paul?
25 years old. That was two years I think before I left Eastman Kodak. So let's fast forward it just a little bit and say that I was now an entrepreneur. First of all, hang in there, being an entrepreneur is not easy. You really got to work hard and muscle through things that a lot of people would think you're out of mind doing. And I think young Paul did that. Frankly, he was out of his mind sometimes as I look back at myself, but so he was a hard work of the thing of it is the whole idea of wearable technology and and how long it was going to take I I had no idea it would take this long to get to the point where it would really start to matter. And if I could offer advice to myself back then this whole idea of going faster on the wave guides and the optical systems to make them light. I mean, we'd have been doing it much earlier if we could have now especially Welcome back.
Any closing thoughts you'd like to share?
Vuzix is having a blast. We're changing the world. And I think at every turn over the coming year or two, it's going to be an exciting space to pay attention to and I think Vuzix is one of those leaders that are enjoying doing it. And here we come the future.
Where can people go to learn more about you and your efforts at therapeutics?
Well, this is probably that pat answer, man. I would go to Google and search Paul Travers slash Vuzix. And there is a plethora of stuff that shows that we've been at this for a long time.
Awesome. Paul, thanks so much for this conversation.
Yeah, Jason. It was my pleasure. Thanks for taking the time.
Before you go, I want to tell you about the next episode. in it. I speak with Alan Smithson. Alan is the CEO of metaverse, company helping businesses and educational institutions leverage the transformative power of XR. He's also the co founder of XR ignite a community hub and virtual accelerator for startups, studios and developers wanting to connect with enterprise customers and their large business problems. In this conversation, Allen talks about his background as a DJ as experienced inventing the world's first touchscreen DJ system. We discuss his transition to the world of VR and AR and some of the most innovative projects he's worked on. He shares his passion for education as well as the impact he's trying to make with XR Ignite. I think you really enjoyed the conversation. Please subscribe to the podcast. Don't miss this or other great episodes. Until next time,