Icis: It's like Google Glass, but classy
The makers of a new nose-perched wearable device say it's far sexier than Google Glass and has a more human-friendly interface.
Picture Larry Page: all nerd, all business. Not a man, one suspects, who worries too much about couture. Now take a look at Laforge Optical CEO and Founder Corey Mack in the video below. There's a little snazz there.
So, it's not surprising that his startup is taking on Google's famed Glass at one of its more vulnerable pressure points: the embarrassment factor.
Although he says he doesn't want to criticize Google Glass too much, as it isn't a finished product, Mack told me: "Our biggest competition is Google Glass but our approach is different, because we focused on creating a device that people don't mind being seen in."
Translation: Laforge's Icis is Google Glass for real human beings. You know, the ones who bathe in the power of the superficial, as well as the serious.
Still not wishing to criticize Google Glass too much, Mack told me: "Style is a subjective thing and currently the bar is set pretty low."
So he and his team decided to create wearable eyewear that, they believe, not only looks good, but has a more friendly user interface. Instead of having to look up and to the right -- as with Google Glass -- Icis's information, which comes from the cloud, is displayed around the outside of the field of vision.
Mack makes lofty, as well as stylish, claims. He says his company has "figured out how to give you augmented reality capabilities within a conventional-looking pair of eyeglasses for people regardless of their prescription."
You might wonder who are these clever people at Laforge. Well, they're current and former alumni of Rochester Institute of Technology. Mack himself came out of RIT's mechanical engineering technology program. His undergraduate thesis focused on disaster relief housing and alternative fuel vehicles. Perhaps there's more money in technological fashion.
Should you believe that these glasses are, indeed, more stylish, you'll also be wondering about the snoop factor. Mack said:
There is no light that comes on with these when you are being filmed. We felt that a light would be overkill and that people would think that they would be getting scanned. Additionally, if I were in a crowded bar or walking down the street I wouldn't know how many cell phone cameras and police cameras were looking at me anyway. I like to look at the upsides of having a camera like this on board. Think of how many people who were wrongly convicted of crimes would not be in jail right now or how much more abuse of police power would be exposed.
There's nothing like the young to offer clear-eyed, blind optimism. Mack does temper his sunny side by suggesting you should "treat anyone wear glasses who is staring at you the same way you would treat any other stranger staring at you."
By screaming "Whatchoo lookin' at?!" and slapping them about the chops? No, just by assuming they might be up to little good.
You'll suddenly believe it's a Friday in June when I tell you that Laforge isn't yet fully funded.
The company launched an Indiegogo campaign Tuesday to raise more money. Mack wants to refine the design and get it ready to be bought by the fashion-aware. The company hopes to have two different lines in the not too distant future.
Mack's vision, though, is enticing: "We have a turnkey solution when it comes to manufacturing and a year or so down the road you could potentially walk into an eye shop and have Icis be produced to your exact dimensions in about an hour."
Laforge Optical can't be the only company that looks at the current iteration of Google Glass and thinks: "Ew." Indeed, Google itself is working to make its creation more visually appealing.
Still, you can't help but think that there's a certain intelligence in the Laforge's basic approach to design. As its CEO explained: "We design products for people, not in spite of people."
That sounds like Mack, rather than PC.