Mad Gaze, a Hong Kong-based startup which produces smart augmented reality (AR) headsets à la Google Glass, is betting on its innovative products to take on tech giants in the international market.
Despite Google’s decision to scrap Google Glass, Jordan Cheng Man-fai, the firm’s founder, believes the future of smart glasses is bright and largely overlooked.
“Google terminated the project, but that doesn’t mean there is no future in it,” Cheng said. “[The decision to scrap or continue the project] depends on whether the developers can solve problems faced at that time.
“With new technology and new materials being developed, we may be able to customize the front camera lens to make it smaller and more user-friendly,” Cheng said.
Seeing AR headsets as a breakthrough product to succeed Apple’s iPhone, Cheng sold his app development company and reinvested the proceeds to start Mad Gaze four years ago.
The company started with an initial capital of HK$20 million. But as a B2C (business to consumer) technology startup, Mad Gaze burns cash in prodigious amounts in research and development for new products, as well as in acquiring new customers.
While frequently challenged by investors on its cash burn during pitching, Cheng uses electric automaker Tesla as an example. “Tesla had burned billions in cash before they sold their first electric vehicle. And it now has a market cap of tens of billions. And you say it’s not worth it?”
Cheng’s vision is shared by Apple CEO Tim Cook, who publicly described AR as potentially as revolutionary as the smartphone, while pushing Apple as the home of AR. It is expected that Apple’s AR headset could be on the market no later than 2019. Cheng is in a race with the tech giant.
“If we can establish our brand as the go-to place for AR headsets before Apple launches its products, we can sell millions of these [AR headsets]. But if we can’t achieve that, we would lose the market to Apple,” he said.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 16
Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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