The global craze for the semi-immersive augmented reality (AR) experience is on the cusp of breaking out. Even though China has been left out in the whole Pokemon Go extravaganza, Chinese tech firms have managed to bring the AR experience to local users through other means: hongbao wars, Pokemon clones, or even in coffee roasteries. Now they are ready to bring the AR experience in eyeglass form.
Of course, there are plenty of incumbents in the sector. It’s been years since the unveiling of the ill-fated Google Glass and Microsoft’s HoloLens, but still, AR glasses are only fancied by a small group of techies and far from large-scale mass adoption.
The argument of customer-faced (2C) vs enterprise-targeted (2B) market, which would boom first has been one of the most-talked topics among VR hardware companies. The same discussion also goes in AR field, and it’s the misjudgment in market direction that doomed Google’s once highly accoladed project, according to Shi Xiaogang, CEO and founder of AR startup Xloong.
“Google Glass is a 2C (“to consumer”) products launched too early, with inadequate experience, high price, and bad market response. However, Google turned to the 2B (“to business” aka enterprise) market and enhanced its investment in AR persistently. It takes time for any new technology to develop, that is why patience is required for both players and investors for them to follow a 10-year strategy to improve the technologies, products and market campaign. Xloong firmly believes in AR, and will make strides as always,” Shi noted.
Entrepreneurship is all about choosing the right directions and timing. Learning from Google’s failure, Xloong decides to focus the on enterprise market in the short term, because they believe the sector will record swift development in the future one to two years. On the other hand, five more years are still needed for consumer market, Shi predicts.
The Beijing-based smart AR glasses maker just released three enterprise-faced AR products at world’s top electronics show CES this year. AR smart glasses Xloong S1. The gadget weighs only 30g, enabled by a split design, titanium alloy frame, and carbon fiber materials. 4G multiple networks support is added for better mobile connectivity.
Apart from the S1 glasses, they also rolled out an optical model and an AI-enabled solution. The optical model features FOV (field of view) of 40 degrees and 2mm in thickness. Core technologies and algorithm in AI, such as computer vision, binocular SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), big data, machine learning all have been applied in Xloong’s AI solution.
“The AR + AI system with display will contribute to a variety of areas. AR makes display and exchange more natural for the output of AI, which is like bringing brighter eyes for a smart brain. Security, logistics, education areas will benefit from it widely,” Shi Xiaogang told TechNode.
Xloong’s design principles
The VR/AR glasses available on the market now either adopt a standalone or split design. Xloong chose the latter option for better customer experience.
“The standalone design is simple and convenient, but it may lead to bulky, weighty head devices looking bizarre and uncomfortable to wear, let alone the endurance and heat caused. The split design solves all above headaches. So, to ensure a lasting and stable product experience, Xloong chooses the split design for mass production, rather than a prototype for a demo,” Shi Xiaogang pointed out.
In addition, their gadget is specially designed for security and logistics, featuring number plate recognition, ID recognition, facial recognition, object recognition.
But he acknowledged that “current split design is merely temporary, AR glasses will eventually evolve into what normal glasses look like with the development of optics, chips, materials, and battery.”
When talking about the future of new experience technologies, Shi gives his prediction, which would provide guidance for the firm’s future development strategies.
“Due to the different optical principle, it is much easier for VR to create large FOV and immersion than AR, but AR enables a see-thru effect. It will be used more extensively than VR. VR and AR are going to merge, that is, there will be a device with a strong sense of immersion with VR and the features of the real environment that AR can see.” he said.
Hardware + software
In addition to hardware, the team has a bigger plan for its future development, which includes “Optics + Terminal + Cloud”.
For optics, Xloong has established optical joint laboratory with universities strong in optics and scientific research institutes, to enhance Xloong’s upstream optical core technical barriers. With investors’ support, like resources from IoT solution provider BOE Technology Group and electronics manufacturer Luxshare-ICT, Xloong has strengthened the terminal development and supply chain production and quality, explained Shi.
By optimizing software cloud platform based on image recognition, SLAM, big data and so on, Xloong aspires to provide more convenient and efficient support in AR solutions for all industries.
Founded in 2015, Xloong is now run by a 70 member team, 70% of which are engineers from optics, algorithm, and hard/software backgrounds. The founders come from Huawei and Lenovo.
After receiving an RMB 50 million a Series A+ round from BOE Technology in 2016, the firm secured an undisclosed amount of pre-B financing led by Gobi Ventures last September.