Article and photos by Marcus Siu
One of the most memorable scenes in the history of James Bond films happens in the 1977 film, “The Spy Who Loved Me” when Bond (Roger Moore) and Anya Amasova, Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) are being pursued by an attack helicopter above them, while our hero is speeding around the windy roads of Sardinia in a Lotus Esprit and then driving off a pier into the ocean to escape their enemy. As the car submerges into the water and Amasova is in total disbelief, Agent 007 transforms the car into a submarine and shoots a torpedo with the use of a sensor from under the water and blows up the helicopter to smithereens.
This was the work of Ralph Osterhout, the mastermind who designed and built the propulsion system on the submarine car. Besides designing and building equipment for James Bond, he is known primarily as an American inventor, designer and entrepreneur and CEO of Osterhout Design Group, whose base headquarters are located in San Francisco. With well over 200 patents to his credit, he has also developed over 2,000 different products, hundreds of separate product lines for startups and Fortune 500 companies ranging from toys, consumer electronics, dive equipment, and furniture. He was also the designer of the PVS7 Night Vision Goggles and heads-up displays in scuba masks.
My first encounter with Osterhout’s ODG was at Qualcomm’s Uplinq conference at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco, in 2014. Impressed with their technological presentations and innovative demonstrations, I continually kept returning to their booth. That was when I had gotten a chance to try to demo the R-7 smart glasses for the first time. I had no idea that a pair of glasses could be so “smart” and be aesthetically pleasing at the same time. At the time, Google glasses were being tested, but I thought the R-7’s blew the Google Glasses out the door, as these were more powerful and immersive than any wearable could be. Best of all, the glasses were practically designed so that you can see through them without being distracted, even in the daylight. In addition, it also acted as a personal home theater, even though this product was designed exclusively for enterprise.
That was just two years ago and a lot more has just happened in a short amount of time. My visit to AWE2016 (Augmented World Expo) in Santa Clara back in June was quite an eye opener. ODG’s booth was the easily the most impressive in the show floor, as they collaborated with multiple partners to show off their platform which would enable other companies to demonstrate in areas, such as healthcare, energy, transportation, warehouse & logistics and government.
Osterhout also was present for the Opening Day keynote at AWE. He mainly spoke about the evolution of ODG’s R-7 Glasses, which are mainly attributable thanks to the quick advancement of smartphone technology. These head-worn computing glasses, which look more like very cool rugged sunglasses; at least from the outside, come with Qualcomm’s SnapDragon 805 2.7GHz processor, 3 gigs of DDR3 RAM, and 64GB of storage. It also acts as a tablet and communications device. It’s extremely lightweight with an amazing field of view 720 HD display, connects to a high speed network, and is Bluetooth compatible. It basically does everything a computer, tablet, and smartphones does and a lot more. It also has an auto-focus camera, accelerometer gyroscope sensors, and two digital microphones and stereoscopic widescreen lenses.
Osterhout was approached by 21st Century Fox in January and they quickly formed an alliance. It was then that ODG shifted gears and changed their whole business model direction and decided to bring it to the consumer level, as well.
“We’re excited to have 21st Century Fox join our family and help extend our considerable leadership in AR head-worn computing,” said Ralph Osterhout, CEO of ODG. “This space is ultimately heading towards widespread consumer adoption and by having 21st Century Fox on board, we’ll be able to deliver immersive and interactive entertainment experiences that transform how users consume content.”
At the end of his keynote, Osterhout announced that ODG plans to release a new Next Generation Glasses for CES 2017, which will be geared toward the consumer. Specs will include Cinema Quality ODG WFOV (Wide Field of View) glasses and a 4k OS Camcorder, which can capture rich video and send and share it back and forth in real time in stereo and 3D, so you can send it wirelessly in real time.
“Real time right now! And you can make mods on the fly, even as you download it.”, proclaimed Osterhout.
Attendees were able to try them out on the floor, so it was no surprise that it’s “Project Horizon” won the “Best in Show” at AWE2016.
Instead of getting credited in movies this time around, Osterhout and the company may be someday credited for something far much greater; in which means how we prefer to watch our personal content.
In these days of wearable technology, this is as good as it gets. The Next Generation ODG R-7 glasses, will sit unobtrusively, right on the bridge of one’s nose and right in front of one’s eyes, but more importantly, will be hands free. Just imagine watching a movie in the sweetest spot in the theater reaching for the popcorn, candy and soda, or whatever you want, from the convenience of your glasses that weighs a mere four ounces. You’ll most likely forget that you even have them on.
Unlike other AR/VR headsets that are out there, R-7 users will still be well aware of their surroundings, in case something or someone needs their urgent immediate attention, like a crying child, a honking car, or even a live Pokemon.
“Personalized entertainment, whether it’s news, surfing or movies watching will never be the same, 24-7.”, Osterhout remarked in his Opening Keynote. “Tomorrow really is here today. It’s really the question of how soon you choose to embrace it.”
Three things that matter in head worn: Realistic AR, immersive high-resolution images, and light-weight hardware:
The R-7 glasses are a high- end tablet, on your head. Four ounces, fully mobile and featuring the most innovative technologies in optics, electronics and 3D stereoscopic displays (720P content to each eye at 80 frames per second). With 80%see-thru lenses and positional sensors using Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, so they know where you are, where you’re looking, and how you’re moving – vital when working in heavy industry and high-risk environments. Widest FOV on the AR market today – equivalent to watching a 65 HDTV inch screen, 8 feet away. With 1080p resolution delivered to each eye for immersive 3D Stereo, no pixels. Built to include sophisticated sensors like gyroscopes, magnetometers, and accelerometers, as well as the latest Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and voice-recognition systems, a 4-megapixel camera, and global navigation satellite system technology, use cases are broad. The glasses also have snap in shields to enable seamless switching from an AR to immersive VR experiences,