Paul Travers founded Vuzix Corporation and has served as President and CEO since 1997 and as a member of the board of directors since November 1997. Prior to the formation of Vuzix, Mr. Travers founded both e-Tek Labs, Inc. and Forte Technologies Inc. With more than 25 years of experience in the consumer electronics field, and 15 years of experience in the virtual reality and virtual display fields, he is a nationally recognized industry expert. Mr. Travers holds an Associate degree in engineering science from Canton, ATC and a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical and computer engineering from Clarkson University.
Cautionary Note on Forward-Looking Statements
Certain statements contained in this interview may be “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and applicable Canadian securities laws. They are generally identified by words such as “believes,” “may,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “should” and similar expressions. Readers should not place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements, which are based upon the Company’s beliefs and assumptions. The Company’s actual results could differ materially due to risk factors and other items described in more detail in the “Risk Factors” section of the Company’s Annual Reports and MD&A filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and applicable Canadian securities regulators (copies of which may be obtained at www.sedar.com or www.sec.gov ). Subsequent events and developments may cause these forward-looking statements to change. The Company specifically disclaims any obligation or intention to update or revise these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.
MR: Congratulations on winning 4 Innovation Awards for the V-720 Mobile Gaming Platform at CES 2015 as well as the $24.8 million investment from Intel Corporation (INTC) announced on January 2. The Intel investment brings improvements to the Vuzix balance sheet and removes several obstacles for the company to obtain a NASDAQ listing. Do you have a goal in mind for when uplisting might take place?
PT: We have stated in the past that it is a goal of ours to list our shares on a more senior exchange. We believe that the Investment from Intel beefs up our balance sheet sufficiently enough to meet the listing criteria of a national exchange. In fact we made a filing with the SEC of how the recent transactions have transformed our balance sheet. On the time frame – that is a question better suited for the exchange!
MR: The V-720 Mobile Gaming Platform features HD 720p high-definition displays with a field of view equivalent to a home theater’s 130″ screen viewed at 10 feet and was a hit at CES this year. My 15 year old son (an avid gamer) said the V-720 “looks wicked awesome.” Is there a timeline estimate for when sales might begin?
PT: Yes, the V720 came across “wicked awesome” at the CES show. In fact to quote a CNET review of the V-720 – “Get this puppy out there in consumers hands – they’re gonna love it!”
Unlike devices like the Oculus Rift, the V720 is compatible with pile of content already available and it has a wonderfully large field of view with HD displays designed to work with modern gaming systems like the Nvidia shield, the PC and the major consoles.
As for timing, we expect that by the end of Q2/early Q3 you will see the V720 start shipping.
MR: That’s great news on the V720 shipping.
Adoption of smart glasses at the enterprise level seems to be running ahead of consumer adoption. What will it take for consumers to embrace the technology and what is Vuzix doing to foster consumer adoption?
PT: Smart Glasses in industry make perfect sense today. As a tool many companies are beginning to show large returns on investment for employing the devices. Imagine picking in a warehouse up to 4 times faster and much more accurately, that would be a winner by most accounts. Frankly almost any enterprise environment where hands free access to information is important is seeing benefit from Smart Glasses today.
In the consumer space it’s a different story. There is no doubt that the experiences that will be delivered to consumers will be amazing and as if out of a sci-fi movie but the glasses can’t look like they are too. The majority of consumer’s wear fashion and that is one of the keys to crossing the chasm into the mass market. To do this conventional optics are just not up to the task. That in fact is one of the problems with Google Glass. They are using conventional optics and because of that you stand out (look geeky) while wearing them.
To solve this new optics technology is needed and this is a big focus at Vuzix. We have been working on proprietary “waveguide optics” that are as thin as reading glasses with displays that can shrink into the temples of conventional fashion styled glasses. These optics will make the technology disappear and that is when consumers will start getting excited.
MR: Several key Google employees instrumental in developing Glass left the company, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations. Launch of Glass has been delayed and it’s uncertain when it might launch. What is Vuzix doing to gain market share in light of the delays in the Glass launch?
PT: Vuzix is focused on delivering winning solutions in the enterprise space today and we are augmenting this by building key relationships with some of the biggest players; leading companies in their respective markets. Some examples; Lenovo is the #1 PC supplier, Intel is the #1 Silicon supplier, SAP is the #1 ERP provider. These are just a few examples of some of the companies that have strategic relationships with Vuzix.
We are also putting a significant effort into our next generation waveguide based Smart Glasses. Our goal is to deliver these next generation solutions as soon as possible with first products expected by the end of 2015. We do have a lead today and we want to keep it.
Our partnerships and current products are creating standards and making great inroads and our new technology will hopefully extend our lead. That said there are going to be many winners in this market and having Google being in the mix has been nothing but good for the entire industry.
MR: What’s the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality? Are they competing or complementary technologies?
PT: Virtual Reality is a “fully immersive” experience that will not be something that people do as part of their everyday lives. The idea behind virtual reality is to wear a head mounted display that blocks out the real world and places a person in the virtual one. Because it is not related to the real world it will be relegated to home use. Even navigation has to be controlled as walking around in the virtual world while actually being in the real world is impossible.
Augmented Reality on the other hand allows a user to mix (or augment) the real world with computer information. Everyone I am sure has seen the “imaginary” first down yard line in a football game on TV. That is an example of augmented reality. The line is not real but it sure looks it. Augmented reality in smart glasses will allow that type of experience but in the real world. Imagine being in Italy unable to read a menu or the street signs; you dawn your smart glasses and magically through the glasses everything is translated into English directly on the page or street sign. Or imagine getting direction to the nearest ATM that are literally painted on path in front of you, like the first down line on the football game. Augmented Reality will be part of our everyday lives and used everywhere. The possibilities and utility are far beyond what virtual reality will be able to deliver.
MR: Looking out 5-10 years into the future, what new applications for smart glasses might be available due to advances in technology?
PT: Smart glasses have the potential to completely replace current computing devices in the future, including the smart phone itself. Everything you can do on your smart phone you will be able to do with your smart glasses and much more. I remember when touch screens first came out and you felt like you could almost touch the internet while browsing the web. It made using computers so easy a child could do it. The touch interface and connectivity/portability of the smartphone really made smart phones accelerate and frankly is transforming the computer industry. That transition will happen again as wearable devices become more ubiquitous. Especially smart glasses that can integrate geospatial connected cloud information to the real world. When this happens amazing things will be possible that cannot be done any other way.
MR: Thank you Paul, for sharing your time with our subscribers. I look forward to following Vuzix Corporation and the exciting future ahead!
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Disclosure: The publishers of MicrocapResearch.com are long shares of Vuzix Coproration (VUZI). They have not been paid by the company or any third party fro this interview.