With the advent of Google Glass and the continued development of platforms like the Epson Moverio and Vuzix Smart Glasses, head-mounted wearables are getting a lot of attention these days. Atheer Labs is a small company looking to catch that wave of interest with a new set of intelligent spectacles and a novel way for folks to interact with them. What you see above is company founder Soulaiman Itani wearing Atheer's prototype device that delivers 3D augmented reality and implements what the company calls a "natural human interface."
The hardware is still very much in the prototype stage, and the unit we saw was clearly a hand-built affair. It packs a pair of displays, a rechargeable battery, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, plus an accelerometer, gyro and an IR camera into its relatively bulky frame -- so it's not not exactly a form factor ready for retail shelves. However, because of that bulk, it can function as a standalone device (it runs an an open source OS that runs Android apps), though it also has the ability to offload some processing to a smartphone.
Atheer Labs prototype 3D smart glasses
The UI is sort of a cross between Kinect and Leap Motion, and is unique in that it's a natural, direct form of interacting with software elements displayed in three dimensions. In practice, this means that to interact with a displayed object, a user actually reaches out and 'touches' that object in space instead of manipulating it via gestures. Itani explains the approach thusly: "it's like the difference between using a mouse and a touchscreen on a regular computer... it's an intuitive solution." The interface can also utilize voice control -- the platform can hook into any voice recognition API from Nuance or elsewhere -- but no such capabilities were enabled on the device we saw.
We got to use the natural human interface ourselves in a rudimentary demo, and this editor found himself agreeing with Itani's assessment. It does feel more natural to poke and prod objects in a three dimensional workspace than manipulating them remotely with gestures (though the UI not totally devoid of them -- holding up a hand in a 'stop' gesture closes programs, for example). That said, we didn't get to use an actual OS or do any real computing on the platform. So, it remains to be seen how the UI will translate to uses other than spinning a three dimensional cube or popping bubbles with a fingertip in a simple game. Atheer will be offering APIs, however, so we look forward to seeing what devs can come up with when the time comes.
While we were impressed with the system's ease of use, interacting with objects rendered close to the eyes was a bit disorienting at times. However, Itani and company CTO Allen Y. Yang assured us that Atheer has some IP on technology that personalizes the displays to each individual users's visual needs -- and the company's VP is an opthamologist who is helping them refine the system. Needless to say, we didn't get to tailor a set of specs for our eyeballs, so we can't comment on how well that IP does its job.
The real question is, of course, when (and if) Atheer's platform will be available for purchase. For now, the plan is to have a retail device ready for sale next year -- which gives the company plenty of time to refine their software and line up the partners and developers needed to help make the platform a success.
Atheer Pioneers the Mobile 3D Platform of the Future to Seamlessly Fuse an Interactive Digital Layer into the Real World
Uses Stereoscopic 3D, Seamless Human Interactions, and Augmented Reality, to Create the First-Ever Natural Human Interface
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – (May 30, 2013) – Atheer, the company that is integrating the digital world into the real world, today unveiled its groundbreaking mobile 3D platform and natural human interface technology to spring forward into the future where users compute on the go with the swipe of a hand or the flick of a finger, and never have to touch a physical screen.
The company and platform were launched on stage at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference in front of an audience of international business and technology leaders. Atheer was one of only a handful of companies selected to demo innovative technology on stage.
Atheer's technology is unlike anything that currently exists in the industry, taking the mobile interface from 2D to an interactive 3D platform centered on human actions. The platform is breaking the display size barrier and has created an experience that is more immersive than a tablet, and more portable than a smartphone. Atheer's technology enables a wearable, portable 3D platform for the first time.
"Our mobile 3D platform fundamentally alters the way people access information on the go, adding a natural interface that can be controlled with natural gestures and motions," said Soulaiman Itani, Founder and CEO of Atheer. "The possibilities and advantages of adding an interactive digital layer to the existing physical world are endless, and this is the future of not only technology, but the human experience."
Atheer's 3D interface is completely immersive and overlays information into users' visual fields in a way that intuitively and effortlessly fits within their frame of reference. This allows users to seamlessly interact with the information by using natural gestures that do not interfere with their regular activity. The mobile 3D platform has effects on daily activities ranging from navigation and gaming, to interactive education and health.
Atheer is grounded in the most advanced technology, using complex algorithms, software and hardware to provide the best form factor and user experience, and is the brainchild of dozens of patented and patent-pending inventions. These include time and power optimal AtheerCoreTM algorithms for detecting hands and gestures, and patented ergonomic benefits that can improve visual comfort and performance by adjusting to each person's specific characteristics. Atheer has patented Retinal Mapping™ and Vision Optimization™ to dynamically improve users' visual experience on the platform, and Personalized-Ergonomics™ to enable a truly natural experience for users' eyes, hands and posture as the platform learns the ideal operating conditions for each particular user.
"What we're doing is so complex and novel that we had to pull together an interdisciplinary team of specialists at the top of their fields to integrate their expertise. The result has been innovative, patented technology that allows our platform to solve a large number of interconnected problems from low-power detection, natural gesture interfaces and sensor fusion, to user ergonomics and UX," continued Soulaiman. "Because our talented team has integrated their diverse skills to test the technology in a natural mobile paradigm, we've been able to create the first fully portable platform."
The platform allows users to leverage regular 2D Android applications, and has the capability to be integrated with any operating system. It also allows for the development of 3D applications specifically for the platform. Atheer gives developers an opportunity to develop 3D augmented reality applications for the first time, allowing them to build more immersive apps and user experiences. The Atheer technology and 3D applications built for the platform are fundamentally disrupting the existing mobile market, and will usher in a 3D mobile device market.
Atheer is currently in the product development phase. The company will be working closely with developers to build 3D applications for the platform, and will be conducting developer demonstrations throughout Summer 2013. Interested developers can find more information here: http://atheerlabs.com/devs.