In the months of March and April, I managed to whip up quite a frenzy of activity for the company and its strategic partners. This overwhelmed our small US-based team and me. For example, we’ve been getting more offers for investment and partnership in the 1st quarter of this year than we had in every quarter combined since I first announced the project about 3 years ago. Here’s a flavor of who’s been talking to us in the tech world recently: Intel, Qualcomm, HTC, Skyhook, Foxconn, BMW, and many more.
Visiting folks to tell the LAFORGE story and get preliminary discussions for the company has been fruitful, but very exhausting. So much so, I had actually taken a brief break and retreated to my childhood home in North Carolina to plant trees.
That being stated, I will be back in Los Angeles tomorrow (Wednesday) to begin hitting it hard, again. So I’m going to give you all just a flavor of what has been going on over the past couple of months and what we have planned for the near future:
Alpha Shipments (Awaiting final approval):
I want to be clear, we could have started shipments last month, and we could ship right now. However, I like to proceed with unanimous approval of the Company’s Board members (my collective 'boss') and our strategic partners. They recommended that we conduct an internal review of the lenses produced and have VIPs at our companies give final feedback before proceeding with alpha production.
I am following this recommendation. For those of you who do not know, LAFORGE Optical's strategic investors manufacture over 40 million pairs of eyewear annually. On the lens side they also are suppliers for companies such as Warby Parker and Tag Heuer; so when it comes to the lenses, their reputations are on the line as well. We will make about 60 pieces. Once I get the go ahead from the LAFORGE Board of Directors, we will begin shipping pairs of non-powered eyewear for experiment 2 (see below) AND powered pairs of eyewear for future experiments.
We do have the alpha user’s website pretty much ‘ready to roll’ and published on a private website. Before the internal review is complete, we will make some more tweaks and publicize the site. I am aware that the site is late, but newer priorities emerged when we were creating it.
Forums - Originally we were going to launch forums in September, but we will launch them in May. There are many conversations going on and we want people to have a central location to talk and share experiences (good and bad). This forum will be moderated by LAFORGE staff and select pre-order holders.
Alpha & Beta user site will become the central hub for updates and details for all alpha & beta activities. Access will be limited to current pre-order holders.
Details on Alexa integration in Alpha models: We have been working on this for the past few weeks and are able to demo it via phone. We will begin porting this over to the Shima platform. We left a button (R1) on the temple for voice activation/digital assistants; we will now be using it. Shima will now be able to communicate and interface with many more devices.
Experiment 1: SocialFLO app user experience trial
We’ve actually been sitting on this since November, but I have recently decided to start accelerating app development for SocialFLO, the app that enables you to configure your digital eyewear. We already have a lot of the backend services portion of this app done. Before mating it to a front end, we will soon be inviting all alpha pre-order holders to voluntarily download a prototype version of the app. The purpose of this is for us to get feedback on the 'look and feel' of the app as well as mitigate any ergonomic, logical, or usability issues before we make this available in App Store and Play store. It currently appears that the SocialFLO app may be available on the Google Play store in advance of most of the shipments (originally this was not the case). We will send out an email to pre-order holders later this month.
Experiment 2: Lens Distractions
Concerning the previous update on product rollout. We will be asking people who are currently holding alpha pre-orders to volunteer for Experiment 2. If you choose to participate in this program, you have received your choice of one of the following pairs of eyewear: non-prescription, prescription, or freeform progressive (l’m looking at you, Earl). Your choice may be tinted in a limited number of colors and you will have multiple frame styles to pick from. The glasses will arrive to your doorstep at zero cost to you and is only open to alpha pre-order holders.
The purpose of experiment 2 is to confirm how distracting our lens technology is when the device is asleep or off. We will also be testing our ability to send patient data to our manufacturing partners and test logistics. We will let alpha pre-order holders know more details about this via the upcoming alpha user’s website.
We’re actually going to finish the first version of this about 4 months earlier than we anticipated. Developers will be able to start coding against an API this month and get mock replies. As with development of the original LAFORGE Optical website, we will monitor complaints and issues in order to drive improvements.
Beta & Beta Bold update:
We have been approached by a variety of chip makers over the past few months and we may be making several additional performance enhancements to the Beta and Beta Bold models. Preliminarily, we will be putting the Beta, Beta Bold, and “Product 2B” on a common electronics architecture.
The original plan was to to put each of the 3 products on a unique architecture. In the original plan, the software dev team would then create a custom solution for each product’s target market. We are no longer going to do this, because we now see crossover potential for all of the products (meaning an improvement in one product line could be immediately applied to another product line).
We have recently been given access to a suite of smaller more powerful processors. We are currently evaluating them to see how they would fit into our new electronics strategy. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I think about what we have access to and subsequent possibilities.
We are also deciding on increasing the clock speed from about 180 megahertz to about 1 gigahertz as well. If we decide to go with the more powerful processor then we may fork the Android operating system to make ghOSt v1.0; currently, ghOSt v0.1 is a fork of Linux.
I like to make myself and my team accessible to as many people as possible, but now the time has come for me to start enacting limits on this. From here on out I will only reply to emails from paid pre-order customers. I no longer have the time to dedicate to everyone. If you are not a pre-order customer, please send all emails to email@example.com or send a message on our Facebook page and someone will get to you.
Still working on:
Insurance: again still not going to be announced until we formally announce the beta. The beta eyewear will be covered, more details on this later.
Eyewear case design: Since the glasses are smaller, we can make the case smaller.
Closing Series-A round: Too many people to meet, not enough time to evaluate every deal.
Product Reviews: We will work aggressively on public relations once our Board’s initial review is complete.
Brands and licensing agreements
LAFORGE has been making significant progress developing intellectual property as an embedded optics company. So much so that the company received its first offer to license some of its IP to another company to work on another device. This is huge as this clearly assesses the value of our inventions and validates our vision of what the future will look like. The company has also been approached by a number of fashion designers and brands that wish to develop concepts and products based on Shima and its underlying technology.
Development on the LAFORGE Platform (SocialFLO).
Still getting many questions on this. If you want to make a mod for Shima, simply go to the SocialFLO website and follow the instructions. All we need are a few bits of information and a conceptual rendering of your mod and that is about it. From there we will begin granting you access to the API.
Move to UploadVR LA
The company will also have a small presence in Upload VR’s LA space. My plan is for us to have product demos and LAFORGE Optical Town Hall meetings there in the near future.
Opportunities in XR (AR/MR/VR)
I recently have been added to the Rochester Institute of Technology’s (my alma mater) LA Entertainment Advisory Board. I will be advising the University’s new MAGIC Center. The $30 Million center is currently under construction in Rochester, NY and will feature a 7,000 sqft. sound stage, various labs for AR/VR experiences, and many other spaces to get a variety of hardware and software concepts off the ground. Though I am new to the group, my goal is to connect students and other friends of the University to resources that can be used to create new concepts in XR that could be licensed or used to spawn new companies. The MAGIC Center is slated to open in Fall of 2018.
If anyone has any concepts that are ready for demo (or think you will have concepts ready for demo by mid-2018), do not hesitate to contact me directly. RIT is a 'hidden gem' and its students have gone on to create many great things such as jQuery, Vimeo, and PayChex just to name a few.
Prescription confirmation: Prescriptions do not get confirmed until your pre-order is ready to ship. It does not mean we have forgotten about you, lost your order, or you have done something wrong. It is merely the current status of your order.
Fewer updates means that we are busy, not that the project has stalled or that there is a problem.
The only way to participate in the alpha or beta activities is to pre-order one. There are no exceptions to this and all future correspondence concerning “how” to get a alpha or beta model for free or at a discount will be ignored.
Things may not roll out in the most logical order: Most companies do not allow customers to try out incomplete software or hardware but we are working aggressively to get feedback at the earliest stages in order to create something that is transportive, transcends reality, and transforms the human experience.
The company is busy as hell and is now focused on software development. Strategic investors have requested an internal review of the lenses before we can get a “go-ahead” on production. Alpha pre-order holders will be getting some additional free stuff soon. Corey will start ignoring emails from people who have not placed pre-orders. Stop sending emails about ways to get free product (you are wasting your time).
CEO & Head of Design