I started this company in order to accelerate the mainstream adoption of augmented reality eyewear. My thesis was, if we could simply make things small enough and stylish enough, then the masses would accept this category (which sounds eerily similar "build it and they will come"). I tried everything I possibly could to convince more investors to come on board, but with the amount of dollars that went into MagicLeap and North many investors had been scared away from consumer. I say this to say that the project is now shifting solely to enterprise applications. This category is easier to fundraise for and one I had been resisting for years. Rather than continue to bang my head against the wall and grit my teeth to get more fundraising for R&D on a consumer, I decided that its better to have the project return to profitability by embracing enterprise (this could then give us the opportunity to use excess capital to fund a consumer product in the future).
To state it in one sentence, "the company creates hands-free streaming devices that improves remote teamwork, respects privacy, and are easy to use". The enterprise product is camera centric with an option for a virtual display. We are taking advantage of the fact that work-from-home is here to stay and there is a skilled worker shortage. Think the ability to have someone in the field be able to use their hands while a remote experts guides or assist them with details from hundreds of miles away. This camera centric product "C2" is a clip-on and works in tandem with our virtual display product "G5".
Along with this change in target market is a change in company structure. As mentioned several times in the past, the consumer side of LAFORGE Optical, the brand "LAFORGE", was a large money loser for us but there was profitable side of the company known as "The House of Light Optics", which is where the new ideas and intellectual property came from. The licenses and partnerships from the house of light optics allowed LAFORGE to operate in the red without the company becoming insolvent (that is until the pandemic hit). This next part is probably TMI (but here we go anyway): when I created this company I intentionally called the departments "houses" as part of a future plan to have these groups on separate floors (when the company grew) and have projects working in common areas as a way to cut down on red tape and to put certain functions in lower cost parts of the US. Anyway, I say all that to say that in 2022 LAFORGE Optical will be rebranded as "The House of Light Optics" or "The HOLO" (for short).
The new company name and logo
LAFORGE (the eyewear brand) will take a backseat (forums and forum history will stay) and undergo a revised image once we and new investors think its the right time for a consumer device. This means that once The HOLO ships its new devices (described below) LAFORGE pre-order customers will be given the option to get one of those devices or take a refund. This name change also helps us with another issue we had in past fundraising efforts: getting prospective investors to distinguish a company known for a product its developing from the part of its business that actually makes money.
We have changed our product development strategy in order to get more funding into the project. In short, we are taking smaller 'bites of the apple' in order to focus on software. Up till now we had been using proprietary optics, proprietary software, and proprietary hardware. This proved too burdensome for us to carry at the same time, particularly as funding in the consumer AR hardware development fell and the number of startup failures increased.
We have been testing a variety of other firms' optics this fall and believe we have settled on a firm that is quick to communicate has plenty of manufacturing capacity for our needs and, most importantly, has proven expertise in mass producing complex optics for this type of application. This means that we have stopped manufacturing development of our optical system (this is where we plowed about 90% of our funds), though we still be designing optical systems for future applications. The long term plan is to make small, inexpensive, incremental changes to their optics based on our goals and customer feedback.
SW dev had been a very much "stop and go" process with us in the past as we encountered continuing issues with tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers when it came to manufacturing tooling for our lenses. With each delay we pulled resources from SW dev and placed them into manufacturing. This will no longer be the case. As we have gotten out of the manufacturing and tool development business, a majority of future funds are going into software development. As a part of this shift, we will also be killing off some of the past software projects (socialFLO app, socialFLO desktop client, and our emulator) and replacing them with new products under a new name. These new SW projects are targeted at enterprise, developers, and researchers and will be previewed in 2022. We will hold a town-hall style meeting for those of you who are interested in providing feedback.
For the LAFORGE product we had long ago developed a circuit board that was about the size of a piece of trident gum that had the capability of recording video, BT, wifi, touch and audio. Our new devices will have those features but have additional features that are geared toward streaming to a 3rd party device. We are still comparing cameras and chipsets for "C2", once we have finished this analysis, we will provide more details. Additionally, as we can get away with a larger form factor in consumer the devices will not be as thin as what we had developed at LAFORGE, and there will also be an option for a wearable battery pack. Below are pictures of two of the products along with a version (C5) to be released later that is based on many of the innovations LAFORGE Shima. I will show a video demo of the optics in the coming days.
(Ripped from our investor deck) Products currently in devlopment
C5 (Our longterm vision of an enterprise device). The camera is new design that is partially integrated into the safety lens.
LAFORGE raised approximately $2.3M in it's history. The HOLO is currently raising about and additional $1.2M to support software dev, marketing, and engineering. We have confirmed about $200K of this new raise based on the level of interest in the changes we made (shifting to enterprise) we should be able to close that gap in the coming months and be off to races.
I'd also like to thank those who have support me and this project (it has been tough) and those who have criticized us (for letting us know where we can do better and learn).