interviews

Exclusive Interview with Harrison Gross: The Man Behind Digital Eyewear That’s Both Fashionable and Powerful

Even as smart glasses are becoming more common than ever today, most of them are held back by limitations like poor user interface and restricted field of view. This is why Lucyd embarked on a mission to create some of the most fashionable and attractive prescription glasses that are also equipped with new-age digital technologies like Bluetooth connectivity, apps for navigation, organization, etc. Today, the company is revolutionizing the Augment Reality (AR) industry by offering smart glasses that come with a number of features, including prescription lenses.

Techpluto got a chance to interact with Lucyd’s co-founder and media head, Mr. Harrison Gross recently and was able to learn more about his venture and some of the new technologies that his team is currently working on.

Q) What laid the genesis of starting an interesting mission of enhancing people’s vision with augmented reality smart glasses?

Harrison Gross: Lucyd was started because the cofounder team recognized a great need in the market that was unfulfilled—tech-enhanced eyewear that could connect with digital assistants that could be delivered with proper prescriptions. About 2/3 of the population requires prescription lenses, and the tech eyewear producers were not meeting this demand.

Q) Can you please walk us through how Lucyd smart glasses add intrinsic value to people’s daily life?

Harrison Gross: Our current product, Lucyd Loud, is like a combination of Airpods and a prescription glasses frame. They have a number of useful features, including letting you listen to music and other audio, summon voice assistants and answer phone calls with a touch, and use several apps with your voice. It all adds up to one awesome thing—less time pulling out and looking at your phone, more time in the real world. As we see verbally based AI’s like Siri gets more powerful, Loud glasses will be able to do even more, all while your phone stays stashed.

Q) What were some of the major challenges you faced in the initial stage while developing the product?

Harrison Gross: In the beginning, we recognized that a number of critical features were necessary for large scale adoption of smartglasses. They had to be light, comfortable enough for all-day use, prescription compatible, high utility, affordable, and most of all, they had to truly be an evolved pair of glasses, not a helmet or headset. For mass adoption, it would have to really match the traditional eyewear form factor, to remove the psychological barriers many people have about smart eyewear, especially after Google Glass.

Q) Would you like to give any clarity on when your new product Lucyd Loud 3.0 will be launched in the market?

Harrison Gross: After an extensive R&D project into a graphical AR smart glass in 2018, we recognized that the technology is just not there yet to make a user-friendly, high-utility, low cost in glass displays. The available routes to accomplish this all had significant drawbacks. They either do not support a binocular display, causing eye strain over time, were too costly, or too low in functionality. So we focused on Bluetooth audio-enabled eyewear instead. The high functionality, low price, and prescription compatibility answered many of our core concerns for a smart eyewear product. Our decision was affirmed by the remarkable growth of voice assistants and the positive response to Lucyd Loud 1.0, our beta product.

Q) Do you see Lucyd as a stepping stone towards the reality of next-gen sound glasses replacing several hand-held computing platforms in the near future? If yes then how close or far we are from realizing this reality?

Harrison Gross: I think wearables in general, possibly those produced by Lucyd, as being part of the future of mobile and even home/office computing. At Lucyd, we see the smartphone as a transitional device between the desktop computer and the wearable future, where full smartphone functionality will be accessed through a device like a smartwatch or smart eyeglasses. Even now, Lucyd Loud acts as a stepping stone toward this future—it lifts many common smartphone tasks up into your glasses, and can reduce your time spent disconnected from the world to look at your phone.

For example, you can use Lucyd Loud to initiate a phone call, send money with Cashapp, call an Uber, search the web and more, all without taking your phone out of your pocket. In the near future it will be able to respond to text messages, and check financial data too—and we plan to add even more functionality with other apps. Our thinking is that the more you can do on your glasses, the more you will see them as your primary device, with the phone as just the antenna and processor. Eventually, these functions can be moved to the glasses itself, removing the need for other devices. I see this happening in the next few years—all-in-one wearables with fluid controls based on high-level audio-based AI.

Q) In future will Lucyd continue to raise finance to fund its development? Is the company open to raising funds through conventional means like equity capital or debt market?

Harrison Gross: Lucyd is currently conducting a seed fundraise to accelerate its growth for a small equity stake in the company.

Q) With more companies opting for bone conduction technology, the competition the smartglasses space is increasing at a very frenetic pace. How does Lucyd plan to cope with this competition, and is there any particular USP that the company enjoys over its all other competitors?

Harrison Gross: We have several methods that we’re already employing to stand out in the growing smart eyewear space. We are more affordable than the competition, we recognize the need to offer proper corrective lenses, and we provide stylish frame choices because this is a wearable you put on your face. In these, we have forged our USP—bringing prescription lenses, fashionable frames, and tech features together for the first time. Lucyd Loud Slim, which just launched in 10 colors, was really the first entry into the smart eyewear space that took into account the fashion needs of the consumer. We were also the first to deliver smart eyewear with a prescription and continue to be a leading provider prescription soundglasses.

Q) Any major predictions about the market of smart glasses for the next 3-5 years with regards to growth and foreseeable challenges?

Harrison Gross: I think we’ll see quite a lot of growth in wearables, smartglasses in particular. As the components get further and further miniaturized, we’ll be able to fit more tech in a smaller form factor. Both audio and visual technologies are improving rapidly. I think in the next 3-5 years we could be seeing full smartphone functionality in wearables. In the near future, a significant enhancement in the functionality of programs like Siri and Alexa will allow a high degree of functionality just off your voice (like building and launching a web page, editing a document, developing content). In my opinion, the most significant developments will come as a by-product of the development of AI and will provide a level of utility and ease of use that is a quantum leap over what is currently available.

Q) Taking a cue from your entrepreneurial journey, what are some invaluable lessons and inspirational wisdom that you’d like to offer to young entrepreneurs?

Harrison Gross: I think there are three things that make a successful startup: a unique idea or USP that solves a major problem and is truly disruptive, a dedicated team willing to do whatever it takes, and excellent marketing. Marketing and branding skills are critical to make consumers aware of the benefit of your USP.

Something that has changed a bit recently, and also worth noting, is the rise of community-focused businesses. Many products and sites live and die by a closely-knit user community. Dropbox was originally proliferated by a very small user network. Bitcoin is powered by a network of miners together. Small groups of people, working together, can make amazing things happen. At Lucyd, we have worked with our community to develop our products to meet their needs, making it truly the first community-centric eyewear company.

Q) Are there any iconic entrepreneurs that you try to seek inspiration from in the moment of great crises?

Harrison Gross: This is a bit unconventional, but I always admired the rapper NAS. He grew up in the projects, cut a #1 album by the age of 19, and parlayed that success into founding a venture capital firm called Queensbridge. He’s very inspirational.

Q) With the success rate of startups as low as 5% to 10%, what are the fundamental reasons for the failure of most startups?

Harrison Gross: I think most startups that fail do so because they can’t meet the market need they set out to answer. This could be because of changing trends and markets, management issues, funding issues, or a number of other reasons. Meeting your main goal, your reason for going into the business seems to be the biggest challenge for survival and prosperity. Just getting to that initial MVP is a killer, but necessary for securing additional funding, developing initial sales and keeping company morale high.

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