Today, March 19, marks 3.5 years of Wisear! 🎉 To celebrate this milestone, I would like to share three personal learnings + five pictures that summarize this great adventure.

Industry Learning = Augmented reality will become… a reality

It’s really hard to dissociate the signal from the noise. Everyone’s claiming:  ‘the Metaverse is dead’, ‘Meta is spending too much on the Metaverse (see our previous article)’, ‘Apple keeps postponing the release of its MR headset’...

On the other hand, every single day we hear about new breakthroughs in optics (smaller form factor, less battery consumption, higher field of view, better resolution, waveguide designs, etc.), chipsets (Qualcomm AR and XR2) or interfaces (Meta neural-sensing wristband) enabling the development and release of new devices such as Oppo AirGlasses 2 and Xiaomi AR Smart Glasses Explorer, recently announced at MWC.

So, where does the disconnect come from and why are we convinced AR is ready for prime time?

1. “Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable.” - Angela Duckworth

We tend to call things magical, natural or divine when we can’t even conceive the multiple steps that have led to the creation of such greatness. We apply this to artists, athletes and even magical interactions we have with objects.

AR has yet to reach that level of magical “greatness” leading to mass adoption, and the exact moment it’ll be reached isn’t fully defined (“It may take 5 to 10 years” as once said by the expert and great prophet Tony Skarredghost - aka Antony Vitillo) but the path to get there is pretty clear.

We’re already witnessing the emergence of a first generation of augmented/assisted reality devices that function as extended displays for our smartphones, such as the Nreal Air.

An upcoming generation of devices with smaller form factors, powered by the breakthrough generated by waveguide lenses (eg: Vuzix Corporation, OPPO, DigiLens Inc.), will enable our AR glasses to actually look like glasses but without the required tethering to our smartphones. They’ll be like a smart watch for our eyes.

Finally, the holy grail, the true augmented reality where our glasses will be able to fully interpret the world around us and project 3D Pokemons jumping around or, more casually, a screen on the wall in front of us displaying our latest emails or TikTok feed will come.

Along the way, the use cases and benefits of each new generation of device will bring more and more users, leading to that ‘aha!’ moment resulting in mainstream adoption.

It’s worth noting that the iPhone didn’t become the big hit it is now until its third version. Similarly, AR is on the cusp of major breakthroughs, and its potential is enormous.

2. “Gradually then suddenly” - Benedict Evans

No matter which disruption we’re considering, no one has ever been able to properly determine a priori which tech discovery would trigger a new usage revolution. There had been companies working on touch screens for decades before the smartphone became a reality and yet, it’s only when the capacitive touchscreen emerged that the smartphone era was ushered in. Similarly, voice has been around for quite some time and as of now, it is still not used that much as an actual human-computer interface, but with the advent of Generative ML it may be the right combo to bring it to mass usage.

We believe the same will apply to AR. There’s currently a list of supposed blockers: lenses, weight, battery life, and interfaces preventing mass-consumer adoption. Many companies, including Wisear, are working on addressing these blockers, but it’s unclear exactly when we’ll move from the early 20-30M early adopters to the 5B users the smartphone currently has.

Product Learning  - We are a FullStack DeepTech Company

(as theorized by Ian Rountree from Cantos in this great article)

When creating technology that’s as disruptive as a neural interface, it isn’t enough to just build this tech. You need to think about the whole experience, the UI and UX around it. As we’re introducing a new gesture, creating a new habit, inventing a new way to interact with our machine, we also need to onboard our users and make sure the benefit is perceived from the second they discover our technology. As seen with Apple, you can’t just build a “touch screen”. When Apple released the iPhone in 2007, very little technology was being created by them; they mostly packaged everything together and built the most engaging UI to make the tech behind it easy to use. They didn’t build the touchscreen but made the UI so perfect that everyone quickly grasped how to use it. That’s why the ‘slider’ to unlock the phone was so satisfying, and using the touch interface became really intuitive. In just one second, with this seamless onboarding offered by the UI, all iPhone users understood the advantages of this new technology, compared to the former keyboards featured on other smartphones.

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Apple iOS 1 and its great simple UI to educate users on the touch interface and slide gesture

Founders Learning = How to be a leader without being the smartest person in the room

When you start a company, you keep hearing a lot (like, A LOT) of advice, and some tips are easier to properly grasp than others. I think it took me some time to truly get one of them: you need to hire people that are smarter than you.

As a co-founder, you feel some responsibility to always be the most knowledgeable person in the company, as you think this is what gives credibility to your team and external counterparts. This is manageable when your company is made up of two or three people, but it quickly becomes an insurmountable task when you reach 10 or more employees. Striving to be that most knowledgeable person is actually counterproductive as you become a bottleneck for every single decision that needs to be made.

Alain Sirois and I were lucky enough to onboard two rockstars early on—Camille Rougier from Softbank Robotics and Enzo Macri from Netatmo—to respectively handle our hardware and software.

From that moment onwards, we actually had to reevaluate our roles, being less involved in operations and more focused on strategic thinking, which actually tends to be daunting since you have less tangible elements to check whether or not what you’re doing is correct, which is different than when you’re deep in the operational tasks and you can actually see the impact of your work right away.

5️ pictures that illustrate this journey:

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How our prototypes evolved over time!
From OpenBCI headset to single ear wirelesss earphones.

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Presenting our vision for Neural Interfaces on stage at Slush 2022

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Receiving the CES 2023 Innovation Award for our wireless prototypes of earphones powered by Neural Interface

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Proud to be working with leading AR and VR brands!
Here: signature of a MOU with MAXST.
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The Wisearphones - release in 2025

And finally designing our 1st-ever smart earphones with neural interface to be launched by 2025 and compatible with any XR devices. 👋🏽 Qualcomm Ventures Metaverse Fund - interested? 😉

Conclusion - On the road to the Age of Reason

By October 2025, Wisear will be seven and will have reached the Age of Reason. Where do we want to be by then? Three North Stars are guiding our journey:

  1. We’ll have released the first-ever neural-interface-powered smart earphones, allowing users to interact with their devices in the fastest, most reliable, most accessible and most private way possible—and most likely, they’ll be completed by an ecosystem of neural-interface-augmented B2B and B2C devices enabling every individual to enjoy the benefits of these controls in every aspect of their lives.
  2. Our mission is to unlock the full potential of human/machine interactions and make it accessible to all users. What does that mean? With our products, we aim to enhance the AR and VR experiences of tomorrow, and make sure digital is merging seamlessly with our life so we can better enjoy our days. We don’t want digital to be a separate world where we ‘waste’ time, but an additional layer that we can ‘activate’ in just a simple gesture, whenever we need it: when we need a navigation map in front of our eyes while biking, when an industrial worker needs guidance to repair an engine, where a surgeon needs to monitor a patient’s vitals while operating on them, or when we want to get immersed in a VR world and have lots of fun. That’s why we aim to develop controls that’ll be faster than anything you can imagine, that’ll free our hands and won’t require our voice, and be accessible by anyone—so we break all barriers between both worlds.
  3. Collaboration is key to achieving this vision, so whatever your background or company, we'd be very happy to see how our neural-sensing powered products can enable your AR headsets/apps/users to reach the delightful experience you've been striving for since day 0. Let’s shape the future of human-machine interfaces together—reach out to us!

Looking forward to discussing this vision with our partners in the coming weeks and the next chapter of this one-in-a-lifetime adventure!