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Last December, Atheer put its One augmented reality headset and developer kit up on Indiegogo, where it went on to raise more than $200,000. But as of today, the startup has decided to cancel the development of the consumer-oriented One to pursue enterprise applications.
The decision came after Atheer found it would likely not be able to ship the One headsets until around late 2015, which is a year after the December 2014 date promised to Indiegogo backers, according to CEO Soulaiman Itani. It also experienced far more interest from areas like the oil and health industries.
“Mainly, to our surprise, it came from the enterprise; from automotive companies, which we didn’t expect at all, to medical companies, which we thought would be very conservative, … to CAD companies,” Itania said in an interview. “We found that we have to put our 100 percent focus on this market.”
Augmented reality systems like Google Glass have already found adoption in health and other industries, where hands-free headsets can help a doctor keep her hands sterile or an oil rig worker access information without getting equipment dirty. Atheer One demos last year included using an application to scan barcodes, which could be of use to Amazon, UPS and other companies that rely on tracking a large volume of items.
Itani said the decision also stemmed from the huge amount of effort it would have taken a startup like Atheer to raise awareness of the glasses. The company also came to believe the hardware, software and consumer expectations are not quite ready for widespread adoption.
“People are very excited about this but they are not (using virtual reality) yet,” Itani said. “They need some time to adjust and to take it in.”
He said the technology will be ready for consumers in two or three years, when it has become more miniaturized and polished. When that day comes, Atheer might pursue another consumer headset.
Atheer will send messages out to people who bought Ones through Indiegogo and its website today explaining that all orders have been canceled and refunded.
“I want to thank them. We’re really thankful for all of the support,” Itani said. “They are the ones that led us here to this great opportunity that we are looking at right now.”
Atheer’s departure from consumer augmented reality leaves the space dominated by Meta, which crowdfunded its MetaPro glasses last year, plus emerging startups like Sulon. It will have to compete with more established competitors like Epson in enterprise augmented reality.