Finally, some hope for those who won’t be able to afford a Google Glass. A French company has unveiled a cheaper, and what it calls better, option to Google’s popular on-the-nose device. Optinvent has two versions of its dual-mode smart glass. One a developer version called ORA-1 priced at $599 and the other a consumer version named ORA-X at $300. That makes the price a fifth of that of the $1500 Google Glass.
Ora X features a front-facing 1080p 5MP camera, a 9-axis motion sensor, wireless connectivity with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS as well as a trackpad for tactile interactions with the device. The company claims the eyewear, powered by a dual-core chip, can support complex applications can well and even has an augmented reality mode.
What really sets the Ora apart from the Google Glass is its second Flip-Vu mode, where you change the angle of the prism, to view get augmented reality with images in the field of vision and a glance mode where you look down at the image. Otherwise it is a bit thicker than the Glass on the sides.
“We don’t necessarily consider ourselves a head-on Google Glass competitor. We were around long before Glass. We started working on the core technology for smart glasses in 2008 and feel the ORA has a different value proposition,” said Optinvent’s CEO Kayvan Mirza in an email interview. He said that while Google Glass’s capabilities are similar to that of a smart watch, ORA is more like a full blown tablet. “The ORA can run AR applications, the display is three times the size of Glass, and can be positioned in two modes,” Mirza said, explaining why he feels the ORA will deliver a more compelling user experience. He claimed Ora does not suffer from issues like color rendering, low brightness and small field of view that plague other smart glasses and is also more scalable.
But what might prove to be the biggest selling point for Ora, however, is the price. The developer version is selling at $600, less that half the price of the Glass. “Yes, we are a start-up so we don’t have the same purchasing power as these giants. But we are still able to offer our product at a third of the price. It gets even better; our consumer product has been announced for $300. That is because our core technology is by far the most cost effective to produce in volume,” said Mirza, who thinks the price has to become aggressive for these devices to become mainstream.
Incidentally, at IFA in Berlin Sony showcased its new smart Glass, which is a far cry from what the Glass is. “Sony hasn’t announced a price, but we know they are using holographic technology for their display. Not only does it suffer from the issues I mentioned, but it is virtually impossible to produce in high volume and the the price won’t be anywhere near what we can offer,” he added.
But there is no doubt that Google’s app ecosystem makes it a more compelling product at the moment. And Optivent is working on that aspect too. “Our platform would be empty if we don’t have compelling apps. We’ve already pre-sold our devices to many developers and are continuing to do so on Kickstarter. This is the way we are seeding the ecosystem. We already have an app store (called “AppstORA”) up and running on our website and we plan to grow it in the coming months,” said Mirza. But Ora has another advantage here too as “most Android apps will run natively on the device”. “Unlike Glass, we don’t need to have ultra-specific applications developed from scratch taking into account a tiny display and a complex SDK with a lot of constraints for developers,” says Mirza, underlining that his platform is much more developer friendly.
Mirza agrees that several hurdles like a viable price tag, access to apps and good design exist and need to be overcome for a product like Ora to become popular. “As with any product category that sets a new paradigm, consumers need to get used to the idea. They have to be able to afford the device, then they need to see a benefit, then they need to get used to the idea. We’re currently at the beginning of the hype cycle and there’s still a few bumps along the way,” he said. “Early adopters will obviously lead the way, and there will be some ups and downs, but ultimately any new technology that offers a compelling value proposition usually gets adopted in time. It is not more complicated than that.”