Epiphany Eyewear doesn’t think of its smartglasses as competing with Google Glass but more as a “GoPro for your eyes,” Cory Grenier, the company’s director of marketing and sales, told eWEEK on a recent call.
Indeed, at a glance, the company could seem to be more aggressively taking on Warby Parker than anything out of Silicon Valley.
The day before I spoke with Grenier, Motorola Senior Vice President Rick Osterloh had made headlines for saying during a Mobile World Congress event that he found existing wearables “all extremely ugly.”
“I sent him a note saying I know of one exception,” Grenier said, congenially.
Epiphany, for now, makes a single design—a classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer look. They arrive as sunglasses, but a pair of clear lenses come included in the case. The glasses include, in the top right corner of the frame, an HD video camera. To start and stop recording, the wearer taps the logo on the frame’s arm. (A blue light turns on to alert others that the glasses are recordings.)
The glasses include 8, 16 or 32GB of solid-state storage and can connect to Amazon’s cloud storage services. Users can share video to social networks directly from their glasses, download video to a computer or other mobile device (via mini USB cord) and edit the video however they’d like. They can also upload any kind of file from a device to the glasses, using it as flash drive.
Users can also upload video to ugen.tv, a site that Grenier says is like “YouTube without the advertising” and that Epiphany plans to do more with.
It’s all pretty simple, and so is the pricing: $299, $399 or $499, depending on your storage choice. (Google Glass, which includes many more features—basically everything your smartphone can do—is priced at $1,500.)
Epiphany is also working on add-ons, such as a sporty clip-on feature that integrates with an app to measure “heart rate, speed, cadence and power,” and a detachable augmented-reality display.
As is, the glasses have obvious consumer appeal, and early user videos show people wearing the glasses while mountain biking, skate boarding, performing to a full concert venue and catwalking. (Models wore them during the BCBG Max Azria show during New York Fashion week.) But it’s their price point—if not partially also their very ordinary look—that might encourage businesses to open their doors to smartglasses and consider the capabilities they might enable.
Grenier says Epiphany has been approached by a pharmaceutical company, a few consulting companies and a national retailer that was considering letting employees wear the glasses to record the customer sales experiences. Epiphany expedited a few pairs to the Olympic Committee in Sochi, Russia, and another pair to a Ukranian national who wanted to film the protests there without drawing attention to himself. (Some footage is on ugen.tv.)
Angela McIntyre, a research director with Gartner, said many of the companies that are beginning to pilot smartglasses—glasses with embedded cameras—are in manufacturing environments, warehousing and field service. There are also opportunities, she told eWEEK, in training, field sales and inspections, “where maybe you want a video record of something you’re inspecting.”
Wearable camera solutions—smartglasses with augmented reality, like Google Glass, are a “little more tricky,” she said— “whether in glasses or clipped onto hats or a lapel, if you’re an officer, those are already being piloted and deployed in the market now.”
For some enterprises, McIntyre continued, an important feature is that the glasses are rugged, or can be worn with safety glasses over them; for others, it’s about comfort and whether a field service worker can easily wear them all day.
“Another thing is building security into the video stream,” she said. “Some products will have encryption built into the streaming video, which is streamed to a secure server. That’s important if you’re taking video of proprietary equipment or processes.”
McIntyre offers examples of other companies in the space. XoEye Technologies offers eyewear (priced between $500 and $600) that can take photos and video, includes microphones and speakers for two-way audio communication, and can connect to the cloud and interface with third-party developed apps. Pivothead makes smartglasses with a built-in 1080p HD camera (the lens is on the nose bridge, positioned between a user’s eyes) for $269. And a company called Visual Mobility makes a version of the Pivothead that can also connect to a smartphone.
Epiphany’s Grenier isn’t exaggerating when he says he knows of one attractive wearable.
Epiphany Makes $299 Smartglasses With Fashion Appeal
Still, McIntyre says she’s having BYOD-style conversations with CIOs about wearables, telling them “what considerations they need to write into their privacy policies,” since options like Epiphany’s make them more appealing to consumers.
“Consumers are employees, and people will be wearing glasses and watches with
cameras into the workplace,” she said.
Neil Mawston, executive director of Strategy Analytics’ Global Wireless Practice, expects a slow shift, calling smartglasses and their ilk (smart googles, smart lenses) a “niche opportunity.” Strategy Analytics expects “just a few million” to ship globally in 2014.
Most smartglasses, he adds, are fairly expensive and unattractive, “and no one wants to be seen wearing what some may perceive as ‘spyglasses’ right now.”
Epiphany Eyewear, he adds has a “good reputation” and nice marks on styling and pricing.
“However, Epiphany’s timing—to launch commercially when the global smartglasses market is tiny—is arguably too early,” Mawston told eWEEK. “Epiphany, and other emerging wearable makers such as Pebble, may find their future lies in the hands of bigger players like Apple or Microsoft, who will at some point start hunting around for brands with established technology or distribution in the fast-growing wearables space.”
Over the long-term, he added, the 1 billion people in the world who wear glasses, contact lenses, goggles or sunglasses present a “big opportunity.”
“Persuading just 10 percent of them to wear smartglasses,” said Mawston, would instantly make it a 100-million-unit addressable market.”
Grenier says Epiphany believes “smartglasses should be accessible to the public,” and its styling and pricing are a commitment to that. But the company also isn’t stopping there.
“We’re not a single-product company,” he said. “We’re a labs. We like to tinker. This is Day One of what we hope will be a 100-year company.”