In a progressively more competitive space of AR/VR devices, a Singapore-based startup has decided to go small – very small – and developed a single augmented reality lens that you can mount on your glasses, to provide useful information on the go.
Although it will surely not compete with the next Apple VisionPro – priced at US$3,500 when it launches next year, and promising a fully immersive experience with a mix of AR and VR – you can already buy Brilliant Labs‘ Monocle for only a tenth of the price of its much larger relative.
Yes, the device isn’t some kind of nebulous Kickstarter promise that you’ll have to wait years of unfulfilled promises for, but you can buy it today for 350 usd on the company’s website which doubles as a store.
Considering its advanced stage, it may not be such a big surprise that it has garnered interest. renowned Silicon Valley investors, including Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe, Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer, and Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky; collectively raising US$3 million in its funding round announced last month, which it plans to use to develop its second laptop.
The Raspberry Pi of AR
In its base form, the Monocle is fairly basic for most users at this point.
It’s equipped with a 720-pixel camera, microphone and touch sensor, using Bluetooth for communication and currently only offers an hour of battery life (although it does come with a charging case that can carry up to six additional charges).
But while you can use it daily to log into ChatGPT on the go, search for information, and receive it instantly before your eyes, the real purpose of the device at this point is rapid prototyping for thousands of DIYers, programmers, hobbyists, and hackers, delivering all kinds of real-world applications.
In one such example, featured shortly after sales kicked off in February, 22-year-old San Francisco-based computer science student Bryan Chiang created his own version an AI assistant, dubbed RizzGPT, as it is supposed to give the user a boost in social situations.
Using the built-in microphone, it actively monitors the conversation in progress and provides on-the-fly suggestions for appropriate responses:
Based on ChatGPT and WhisperOpenAI’s voice recognition system, it may seem very basic at this point, but that’s exactly the kind of prototyping that the AR monocle is enabling now – before more sophisticated products can hit the market in the years to come.
To that end, Brilliant Labs’ Monocle isn’t powered by a traditional processor and doesn’t run an operating system as such, like you’ll find in modern smartphones or IOT devices.
Instead, it’s powered by an FPGA (field programmable gate array) – a circuit that can be completely reprogrammed at will.
Traditional processors have their internal logic “built in” at the production stage. Meanwhile, FPGAs, while more expensive to manufacture and less computationally powerful, allow full customization of this logic to serve very specific purposes. This, again, makes it a great choice for prototyping.
This customization process is made easy through Monocle’s use of StreamLogic, a no-code, drag-and-drop FPGA programming environment that simplifies coding and helps product developers focus on testing new features very quickly.
In many ways, the Monocle is like Raspberry pieformerly an educational project revolving around small, very basic modular computer boards, which over time exceeded its original purpose.
Within a decade, it has become hugely popular not only with hobbyists assembling their own devices, but has found practical use in other areas including robotics, industrial applications, monitoring other hardware and machinery, or even consumer products like smart home devices or small computers.
The hope behind the Monocle (and, presumably, its successors) is that it will also grow beyond its initial limitations and become the backbone for the development of hundreds of different solutions for consumers and businesses.
That’s why, thanks to the nice injection of capital, we should know more about Brilliant Labs in the years to come.
Featured Image Credit: Brilliant Labs