Home > Hong Kong Means Business > Life & Style

Subscribe


 Print  Email
Content provided by :  Hong Kong Trade Development Council
 

Through the glass smartly

Kenny Cheung
Solos General Manager Kenny Cheung

The devices that ate everything – smartphones – are now extending themselves to their users’ faces by plugging into spectacles. Just ask Solos AirGo, a Hong Kong start-up supplier of optical glasses that features an in-house developed mobile app linking the spectacles to smartphones. 

Integrating digital health tracking, audio entertainment and personal assistance into one via the app, Solos AirGo is poised to take smart glasses to the mass market. Featuring detachable smart temples, these smart glasses provide motivation to help users achieve fitness goals and feature patented Whisper audio technology to help noise cancellation. Users can snap the rectangular temple pieces, on different frames according to their shape, size, colour and material preference, said the start-up’s General Manager, Kenny Cheung. The spectacles have a suggested retail price of US$299.

“When people call me, I can just tap on my glasses to take the call,” said Mr Cheung, wearing his product. “I also use the glasses to read WhatsApp messages, and when I’m out running, as I can listen to music while listening to my running pace – I don’t need to check my watch or wear ear buds anymore.”

Offering six styles of frames, the start-up is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for the Solos AirGo, with 305 backers and HK$501,244 raised so far – just over the target of HK$500,000. “Most of our supporters were initially from Hong Kong but now we have backers from Mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore as well as the United Kingdom and United States,” Mr Cheung said, adding that they are on track to start shipment in April, with an aim to ship out all glasses to backers before June.

Offering six styles of frames, the start-up is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for the Solos AirGo, with 305 backers and HK$501,244 raised so far – just over the target of HK$500,000. “Most of our supporters were initially from Hong Kong but now we have backers from Mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore as well as the United Kingdom and United States,” Mr Cheung said, adding that they are on track to start shipment in April, with an aim to ship out all glasses to backers before June.

Taking on consumer market

The device plugs users’ glasses into the Internet
The device plugs users’ glasses onto the Internet

A tech start-up spun off from Kopin Corporation, which has developed smart glasses for the US military and also worked with Google Glass, Solos was established to focus on developing smart glasses for the mainstream market. It debuted its first smart glasses, the US Olympian-approved smart cycling glasses Solos Sports, in 2019 following a successful Kickstarter campaign. Its second generation of Solos smart glasses represents a big leap as they are now firmly in the mainstream consumer market with a strong lifestyle focus, Mr Cheung said. “Solos AirGo are glasses you can wear all day, every day … they’re no different from normal eyewear.”

Mr Cheung joined Kopin in 2016, when the company was mainly focused on the US market within the niche market of cycling. It launched the second-generation product so it could reach out to other markets more easily, he said. One difficulty was sizing the glasses to fit a wide range of head sizes. “We couldn’t do a one size fits all… a lot of people have tried, but it’s too difficult.” Now a user can select a correctly fitting detachable frame. It is the first smart-glass brand to possess this feature, Mr Cheung said.

Solos - an exhibitor at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's HKTDC International ICT Expo - is based at the Hong Kong Science Park. The firm originally planned to have its grand opening in February, with a pop-up event in March but now plans to make its official debut in April or May. Mr Cheung has been based at the park since 2005 and said it brings many good networking opportunities. He hopes to link up with other brands in the smart-living sector once the start-up launches.

Eyewear expertise

Temple clip-ons fit any size of spectacles
Temple clip-ons fit any size of spectacles
Solos looked at Boston, San Jose, Shanghai and Singapore as possible headquarters, Mr Cheung said. They opted for Hong Kong as Kopin already had a 10 to 12 strong team in the city, with other teams based in the US and Shenzhen. Solos was also attracted by Hong Kong’s status a big eyewear- exporter since the start-up focuses on making a product that can be worn like normal glasses, and resembles everyday spectacles. Being headquartered in Hong Kong really helped accelerate smart-glass development, Mr Cheung said. Kopin’s Chairman John CC Fan is originally from Hong Kong and had a lot of connections in the city, Mr Cheung added.

The Solos team is busy bringing the product to market but also hopes to team up with big-name partners from the world of opticals, technology or even fashion to take its smart glasses to the next level. “Eyewear is relevant to a lot of brands, including those in the sports and fashion sector … there’s a lot of crossover possible. This launch could be as big as a smart watch or even a smart-phone,” Mr Cheung said.

The start-up is considering hosting pop-up stores and working with various sales channels to promote the brand and product and is additionally hoping to partner with retailers and optical channels in Asia. Letting prospective consumers try the glasses so they can experience the benefits for themselves will be crucial, Mr Cheung said. “The glasses are always connected… you can listen to music, make phone calls, use Siri… all you have to do is double tap on the glasses and you can ask whatever.”

Mr Cheung does not think conventional eyewear will become a thing of the past anytime soon but hopes people will see the benefits of smart glasses and consider making the switch. “It’s like smart watches – more and more people are choosing them [over conventional watches]. When people have enjoyed the benefits of the smart features we are offering, they may just replace them with their own conventional glasses. That’s our vision, that Solos AirGo will just be worn as normal glasses.”

Related link
Solos AirGo

 Print  Email