Israeli startup Orcam headed by Mobileye founders CEO Ziv Aviram and CTO Prof. Amnon Shashua, has launched a new wearable camera based on artificial intelligence (AI), that resembles Google Glass, Google's augmented reality eyeglasses.
The company, based in Jerusalem's Har Hotzvim high-tech park, is known for its AI glasses for the blind and people with impaired vision. Orcam's glasses, which identify faces and read texts for people with difficulties in seeing, are priced at $4,500. Orcam's new device, a wearable camera, has been launched in a Kickstarter campaign with a $200 price. Shashua told "Globes," "We took the facial identification from the first product to a much higher level. It can now identify any face, including people it does not know."
Orcam's camera resembles ordinary Bluetooth headphones with a camera lens added. Shashua hopes to succeed where Google failed. Google Glass included Internet connectivity (Shashua calls it "creepy" - both frightening and repulsive). Google's glasses were a total failure, both because of their high price ($1,500) and because they made people uncomfortable - the glasses were at eye level, were capable of non-stop photographing and broadcasting, and aroused concern about privacy. Google is now working on a second version of the glasses.
Shashua and Orcam's new gadget is not an independent device; it works with a mobile phone. For example, if you met someone at a conference, the gadget will photograph him or her, connect to your mobile phone, and document his or her face on an interface from which it is possible to retrieve whom you met and when. The same is true about business cards: the card can be turned towards the camera, and the other person's particulars will be attached to his or her picture. Shashua explains it like this: "We wanted to solve two problems. The first is that I'm supposed to know thousands of people. I pass through the corridor here, and people expect me to remember their names. With the help of the device, I can see their name and use it while I'm talking with them.
"The second problem is that when I go to a meeting, 10 people give me a business card. At the end of the meeting, I have 10 business cards and don't know which card goes with which face. What the device does is make a record of people into which I can put your name and the circle I want to associate you with - work, for example. At the end of the meeting, all of the people at the meeting will be labeled in my records with their name and photograph."
The user can therefore define a reference group for everyone he or she talks to - work, family, friends - and get statistics on how much time he or she is spending on work, family, or friends and who among the people talked to he meets more or less than others. Shashua promises that there will be other important uses in the future, such as online transcription of meetings. He says, "Transcription is only the first step. The second will be turning sentences like 'Let's set a lunch date' into key words on the subjects we talked about. Actually, it's not just transcription; it's also natural language processing."
What is special about Orcam's gadget is its features designed to overcome technological and social limitations. For example, in order to overcome concern about privacy, the camera is indeed a camera, but it does not store pictures and almost never broadcasts them, except for a small display picture. The new device photographs for a tenth of a second, once every second. It is connected to a phone, not to the Internet, and all of the calculations take place on the camera's chip.
The new product is being offered from today as part of the Kickstarter campaign, a marketing method that is usually designed to raise money for the initial need of a product and is less identified with a company that only this year raised $30 million at a value of $1 billion. Shashua explains that the reason is in order to recruit early adopters to help the company further its development - to understand which market segments it should aim at, their various needs, the various possible uses, and to accustom the market to the new concept. Shashua says that the $200 price at launch will be half of the price for the product when it is launched outside of Kickstarter.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 12, 2018
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