We’ve talked before about how augmented reality (AR) may be the biggest investment opportunity ever. Augmented reality hardware is a huge part of enabling this opportunity, and until we get to AR enabled contact lenses, we need to make do with modified glasses. One startup playing in this space is Osterhout Design Group (ODG).
Founded back in 1999, Osterhout Design Group (ODG) closed a $58 million Series A funding round this month, the largest initial funding round for any company in the wearables, augmented reality, and virtual reality industries. Their flagship product, the ODG R-7 AR headset, has been shipping since the end of 2015 and has received positive reviews from early adopters. ODG is competing in an increasingly crowded augmented reality glasses industry that includes products like the Vuzix M-100, and Microsoft HoloLens.
The R-7 offers 3D stereoscopic displays and a lighter, sleeker design than previous versions of the smart glasses. It features a large, 3D, HD screen that the company compares to “having a 65-inch screen floating in front of your eyes.” The system runs Android, and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.7GHz Quad-core processor, providing enough power for complete integration, with no additional computing power required from an outside source.
ODG has been able to stand out by targeting corporate applications for their AR technology, focusing primarily on the healthcare, energy, transportation and manufacturing industries. Partnerships with companies like Advanced Medical Applications and Ried System Electronic have played a key role in the company’s fundraising efforts.
It’s important to realize that the commercial opportunity for AR will be much easier for people to adopt. Google Glass made a lot of people uncomfortable because nobody wants to walk around all day wondering who is taking a video of them with Google Glass. OSG believes that if you can provide the right amount of value add, this becomes a non-issue in particular when you look at AR in the context of commercial usage. Let’s take a look at how Osterhout Design Group’s R-7 augmented reality glasses are already being used in their target industries.
AR For Deskless Field Workers
In June 2016, Osterhout Design Group announced their partnership with Atheer, bringing their AiR (Augmented Interactive Reality) platform to ODG’s R-7 smart glasses. Atheer’s AiR Suite provides cloud-based collaboration, management, and data-sharing to deskless workers. The platform has been deployed in professions that include doctors, industrial technicians, and field engineers.
AR For Those With Vision Impairment
NuEyes announced their partnership with ODG in early 2016, and it’s a good example of how augmented reality could change the lives of those with vision impairment. Using the R-7 smart glasses, NuEyes provides features that offer utility to those that suffer from macular degeneration and other visual conditions.
Their first product, the NuEyes Easy, is currently available for $5,995, providing helpful features like variable magnification from 1x – 12x, in-depth contrast and color settings, text-to-speech, and media streaming. In late 2016 the company is releasing a more advanced version, the NuEyes Pro, which will bring a number of improvements including full Android software, internet browsing, email, and social media applications.
AR For Military and Police Applications
Ried System Electronic provides defense, security, and military OEMs to organizations around the world. Their partnership with Osterhout Design Group provides vital utilities to military and police, including allowing for the remote viewing of zoomed and thermal image cameras. The R-7 smart glasses are currently used by several special police forces and military organizations.
AR For Quality Assurance in Manufacturing
In January 2016, Vital Enterprises and ODG announced their partnership, using the R-7 smart glasses to aid manufacturing companies with quality assurance. Vital offers purpose-built custom software for field service and manufacturing applications. Their partnership allows them to bring data visualization, point-of-view video, and remote consultations directly to technicians and field service workers, improving access to information and repair quality. Their hope is to reduce risk to employees, improve quality by enabling remote support, and streamline production by increasing worker productivity.
AR For Medical Training
Advanced Medical Applications aims to improve healthcare by giving doctors and other skilled workers in the medical industry access to telemedicine, medical training, and mentoring from experts in the field. Their partnership with ODG has brought their groundbreaking medical technology to the R-7, giving those in the medical field the ability to share video and consult with experts who can make real-time recommendations to improve patient care.
Other Potential Uses
The ODG R-7 is already used in industries that include medicine, manufacturing, and military applications. But Osterhout Design Group sees a much larger picture for the R-7 and subsequent versions of their smart glasses. Through their partner program, they hope to expand the R-7 to new industries and applications. Some of the other potential uses for their smart glasses that the company is eyeing include:
Although the company has focused heavily on corporate uses, they do envision a future where their smart glasses are used by consumers as well. The consumer augmented reality market is more competitive, but many of the required features are already possible in the current R-7 build, including:
- Browsing the web,
- Reading email,
- Streaming Media,
- GPS Navigation
- Audio and Video Calls
- Video Recording
- Social Media
We’ve already discussed some of these above. Osterhout sees a lot of potential for growth within the manufacturing, maintenance, and construction industries, as evidenced by their current partnerships with companies like Atheer and Reid. Providing deskless workers with the ability to consult with experts in real-time, access work manuals and training info, and stay connected with co-workers will improve productivity and quality assurance.
Energy and Utilities
Osterhout also hopes to service the energy and utilities industry by using the ODG R-7 to improve safety. Because workers in these industries are often servicing dangerous equipment in loud conditions, giving workers the ability to access hands-free work manuals can help technicians to focus on the task at hand. Additionally, being able to share video with other experts could help utilities companies to speed up repair times.
Osterhout Design Group’s strategic industry partnerships have catapulted them to the forefront of the augmented reality industry and helped them to secure $58 million in their first round of funding. The mobility and power of their R-7 smart glasses make them the perfect solution in any industry where workers work with their hands or deal with complex systems.
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