“We donate the material but make money from the data,” he said. “For every dollar of hardware, we earn three dollars in software and data sales. “
That’s why companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Meta are exploring similar technologies. For some, they can be a way to sell software and services. For others, they might be a way to sell ads, Dr Bautista said.
But experts say perfecting the technology could take a decade or more. Some augmented reality glasses are as small and light as regular glasses, but they still don’t offer the computational power needed to generate the compelling yet unobtrusive images that everyday use would demand.
“It sometimes feels like ’10 years’ is the code for ‘I have no idea’,” said Dr Balram, who develops augmented reality glasses at a company called EyeWay Vision after leaving Google. .
In 2018, Intel ended the Vaunt project, before selling many of its patents to North, the start-up bought by Google. In the end, Dr Bautista said, the company found it just too difficult to answer the many questions surrounding the technology.
Due to privacy regulations in Europe and other parts of the world, he said, the project could end up hurting bottom lines more than it helped. The company estimated that 3% of its annual revenue could be at risk, he said.
Today, many of the most powerful technology companies in the world face the same questions.
“We can build amazing things,” said Dr Bautista. “The material is not the difficult part. The business models are not the difficult part. Finding ways to use these devices isn’t the hard part. The hard part is: what if the data leaks? “
Brian X Chen contributed reports.