Wearables are all the rage right now, but after Google Glass had issues with adoption rates, most wearables pivoted focused to the safer bets, things like smartwatches. We just weren’t seeing that many innovations for wearables that involved glasses because it was a tough sell. Not satisfied with what was available, one company set out to bring a true wearable that works with any pair of glasses.
That company is Vufine. While their offering isn’t as advanced as something like Google Glass, their smart monitor is both affordable and versatile, something Google had issues with. Vufine gives users a true second monitor through the use of HDMI and works with smartphones, cellphones, drone cameras, and more. The newest model, Vufine+ is currently being funded on Kickstarter and has already almost doubled their goal, with a little under 72 hours remaining.
We spoke with Goro Kosaka of Vufine to talk about their wearable, what inspired it, and what the Vufine+ improves on from the original model. Check it out below!
Care to introduce yourself and your role with Vufine?
I’m Goro Kosaka, the CEO and founder of Vufine, inc.
What inspired the creation of the Vufine?
The majority of our team met at another wearable startup interested in being the ‘stylish’ version of Google Glass, so we came directly from that world of high end, smart glasses. Ultimately, that company fell through around the same time that Google Glass itself was abandoned. For us, we wanted to take a more simple, stripped down approach to wearables.
Doing research on Glass, the majority of the apps running on their device only utilized the screen and failed to truly take advantage of their promise of augmented reality. So we decided to build a dedicated HDMI monitor compatible with a large array of available technology so people can extend the functionality of the tech they already owned.
In this field you see a lot of technology that feels like it’s straight out of Star Trek – in some places it even feels that technology is outpacing science fiction. For us, we were a bit tired of hearing about technology, like Glass, that would become consumable in the next ten years; we wanted to create something available now. We were inspired by the sudden influx of all of this incredible technology and wanted to help bring that to the average consumer.
How long have you been working on Vufine? How many models have there been?
There are now 2 Vufine models: Vufine & Vufine+. We worked out the original concept of Vufine at the start of 2015. The prototyping process lasted for about four months before settling on the design for our first Kickstarter. From there we optimized a few small things between production batches but nothing significant enough to be called a second model until the Vufine+. We did introduce 2 mounting accessories in the interim to help give our users more options for wearing and adjusting the device.
Your newest model is currently on Kickstarter, correct?
Yes, as of now the Vufine+ is still on Kickstarter until the campaign ends around 9am PST Saturday, December 3rd.
Why did you decide to go the Kickstarter route?
The Kickstarter community – our first backers especially – have been integral to developing and advancing Vufine. One of the great things about Vufine is that it is literally just a display. So, when you take it to a creative, tech savvy community like Kickstarter your backers bring a lot to the table in terms of interest and input. Out the gate from our first Kickstarter we had about 1400 backers ready and waiting to receive their Vufine.
Though we had a general idea about what most of those users would be doing with Vufine, they never ceased to amaze with unique and interesting use cases – everything from combat sports to yoga, horseback riding to building their own smart glasses by paring Vufine with a raspberrypi. We went back to Kickstarter to both tap back into that community and to thank that community by ensuring they have the first, most discounted access to our new product.
What is new with the Vufine+?
The largest changes to Vufine are the addition of display modes and a redesigned docking station. From our initial users we found that our Vufine panel was being used to display a wider range of aspect ratios than we’d expected. Because peoples’ tech is so varied, between smartphones, tablets and laptops, we needed a way for the screen to be optimized for device specific use. Now, whether using a smartphone in portrait or a tablet in landscape, you can choose between 3 modes to ensure your using as much of the panel for the best viewing experience.
Once the screen was made as large as it could be, we needed to make sure users had greater adjustability when positioning the display. The newly designed docking station offers a significantly increased range of adjustability. We also include the original docking station for those seeking a smaller, more discrete way to wear Vufine.
Beyond the largest changes, there have been improvements to the plastics to help expedite assembly and updates to the firmware so Vufine+ will automatically pull 720p HDMI from devices that can output it without going into the device settings.
Are there any plans to look into a truly wireless model?
Wireless is a big goal for us. Having said that, we made a conscious decision to keep Vufine a wired product to avoid latency concerns and preserve battery life. What you’ll see in a lot of wearable technology like Vufine is either a bulky device or a device with a connected pack for extra battery life and larger components. Vufine uses your technology – so there are many ways to go wireless from a camera or drone to a device you pull the feed out of with Vufine.
We have been looking at wireless solutions from the start. It is more about the limited number of devices you can wirelessly connect to. There is no standard in transmitting high definition video over wifi or bluetooth. So as soon as we go wireless, we lose majority of the devices that Vufine can connect to, including drones and cameras. Our choices to go wireless with available technology are 1) make a transmitter and receiver pair, where the transmitter can take any HDMI input. 2) Go with proprietary formats such as Apple’s AirPlay or MiraCast. In either way, we will lose the easiness of connection and no-latency video.
When you look at headphones, there are many options to go wireless now, but many people still chose to use wired headphones. People are used to having a cable attached to your head. But we continue to look in to every possibilities to make it wireless while keeping it easy to connect.
This is the most important question Vufine faces as we move forward: how do we go wireless? Does that alter or advance what Vufine is at its core? It’s a choice we must act on very deliberately because of how much it will change the product and the experience.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions, anything you’d like to close with?
The current options for Smart Glasses are too expensive and very limited with the uses cases. When a new technology comes to the point that is affordable for the most of us, people will buy it as a tool and find its own unique way to use them.
We wanted to make a wearable display that is affordable and simple, so that people can easily connect to their own device, run their favorite applications, and find new use cases that we did not even expect. And that is when, only when, we can optimize for a specific use case to make a truly Smart Glass.
While there are some things that would be nice to see with Vufine+, mainly wireless functionality, there’s no denying that Vufine could provide some pretty awesome uses like drone and GoPro uses. We’d like to thank Goro for taking the time to answer some of our questions. If you’d like to learn more about the company, make sure to check them out here.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.