Eyes on the road, and on the future
I am a self-confessed, pitiful moped owner. In my one and a half years of owning a speedy red scooter, the extent of its journeying has been to university each day (one left turn and 3km of straight road away from home) or to my nearest supermarket (one straight road and one right turn away from home). My incredibly mundane adventures stem from one issue - my appalling sense of direction.
I once got lost on Queen street and had to call my brother to come get me, and for those of you who haven't been to Auckland, it is simply one straight road that has a sloping gradient that makes it very easy to know whether you are walking up or down it.
This general absence of any awareness of my surroundings makes me a very nervous driver - on a scooter, you don't have the luxury of being able to pull your phone out to GPS something if you don't know where you are going or if you've lost your way. For motorcyclists, owners of a vehicle with considerably more power than my 50cc scooter and that tend to go over 50kph, navigation and speed limits are even more of an issue.
I had the opportunity to have a chat with Kal Gwalani, the man who has developed the solution to these problems - REYEDR, an augmented reality, heads-up display helmet.
Natalie: Tell us about REYEDR and how it works
Kal: At Mango teQ we are developing AR (Augmented Reality) technology for smart eyewear solutions that present data in real time to solve specific customer problems. We are uniquely positioned with the knowhow to develop this frontier technology; the only company in Oceania and amongst a handful in the world.
Our first offering is the REYEDR (pronounced rider) heads-up display (HUD) solution for motorcyclists. Utilising a novel retrofit approach; the REYEDR HUD fits on the chin bar of any full face helmet and converts it into a smart AR device. The HUD along with REYEDR smartphone App deliver key information about the bike, routes and ride group. Leisure motorcycling is a popular recreational activity with around 30+ Million riders. The social aspect of the App is designed to connect bikers to this large community and discover new route through those who have ridden in in the past, or to experience with those in their ride group. Motorcycling is a risky sport, by keeping riders geo-connected with their group and the ability to alert emergency services, we give riders and non-riding loved ones some peace of mind.
Natalie: Where did the inspiration for REYEDR come from?
Kal: I have been riding motorcycles on and off since I was 17, and like many bikers in their forties, I too returned to motorcycling after a long break much to my wife's concern. Her concern was well founded as the risk of getting injured or being killed on a motorcycle is 21 times higher than for drivers of cars!
When out riding one day, I had this idea and wondered why I couldn't have a heads-up display, the same way some high-end cars do, that would allow me to see all the information I need to know such as speed and navigation - without having to look down at the dash. At the speed limit of 100 km/h, a bike travels at 28 meters per sec, therefore, it is so essential for riders to always keep their eyes on the road to look out for hazards.
The way in which information is viewed on motorcycles has not really changed since being developed a century ago; AR combined with smartphone computing now provides the ability to improve safety by delivering key information at eye level. By eliminating distractions from looking down at the dash, motorcyclists can now ride safer by keeping their eyes on the road at all times.
Natalie: What makes REYEDR’s technology different from the Head-Up-Displays offered by competitors?
Kal: Our HUD system incorporates patented and patent-pending technologies. The REYEDR device is a true HUD that utilizes superior holographic technology to achieve the requirements of the virtual image, without adding unnecessary bulk. The virtual image is at infinite focus to prevent distraction; the GUI (graphical user interface) is minimalist, non-distracting, and clear. Our hardware is less complex with a smaller, lighter and minimalist form factor for easier integration onto the helmet; lower capital requirements and far easier integration into one functioning product, at a sharper retail price. Riders also have the ability to personalise their REYEDR HUD with various ‘skin’ options and their own GUI.
Natalie: How have you managed to grow REYEDR’s presence in the market?
Kal: From the outset, we have been engaging with customers. Besides conducting validation of our offering through surveys and face to face interviews during development, we regularly interact through social media and at relevant local and offshore events.
Natalie: What are the biggest challenges in the industry you have had to overcome?
Kal: AR hardware is frontier technology at the early stages of development. Over the last 3 decades, we have seen the shift in user interface (UI) from desktop computers to laptops, mobiles to tablets, and now smartwatches. Smart Eyewear is poised to be the next UI as it has the ability to present data in real time to solve specific customer problems. However being nascent technology we are shaping the market and having to educate various stakeholders such as customers and investors alike!
Natalie: What’s next for REYEDR? How will you continue to grow and expand?
We are excited to be at the forefront of the emerging AR growth trend and already have a comprehensive product roadmap for the next 5 years for both B2B and B2C solutions. AR headwear is expected to grow at CAGR of nearly 90% by 2024. Market research predicts the HUD market will be worth US$9.02 billion by 2020 (HUD market). We are now raising capital for our pre Series A round to commercialise our technology and enter our main market, North America.
Natalie: If you had to give one piece of advice to an up and coming entrepreneur with a dream to see change, what would it be?
To be a harbinger of a new disruptive technology can be really exciting but I wouldn’t recommend jumping into entrepreneurship because of glamour or quick success stories. Be prepared for several years of hard work, professional and personal sacrifices before you can achieve your dream.
Natalie: While I may look a bit silly wearing such an advanced, heavy duty helmet on my little 50cc scooter, with any luck, REYEDR's helmets will soon become a mainstream product and I may be finally able to risk venturing more than 3km away from my flat. This amazing technology has the potential to drastically reduce the amount of motorcycle accidents on our roads and save a lot of lives, and to think the idea came from an innovative New Zealander simply doing an activity he loved!