“OK Glass, are companies going to buy you?”
That’s the question startups are asking as they determine whether Google Glass is a promising platform for business applications. APX Labs LLC is betting the answer is yes -- the company said today it raised $10 million in a funding round led by New Enterprise Associates.
Google Inc. started prototyping the smart glasses in 2012 and held a one-day sale last week allowing consumers to buy them for $1,500. The Web-connected gadgets respond to voice commands beginning with the prompt, “OK Glass.” Earlier this month, the company announced “Glass at Work,” an initiative to encourage software developers to target businesses.
APX, based in Herndon, Virginia, is one of the companies Google promoted in introducing the business program. The startup, which entered the computerized eyewear market in 2010, provides software that works on Glass and Seiko Epson Corp.’s Moverio devices. It initially focused on military applications before expanding into commercial uses.
APX’s software displays visual information that melds with an employee’s environment. For example, it could show a warehouse worker where something needs to be restocked or a mechanic what part to use for a car repair.
“We can show people that it’s no longer science fiction,” said Brian Ballard, APX’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “Seeing really is believing.”
Sales of wearable gadgets, including eyewear and smartwatches, will reach 111.9 million units in 2018, up from more than 19 million this year, according to estimates from researcher IDC.
APX, which has raised a total of almost $16 million, will use the capital to hire salespeople and engineers, Ballard said. The company has about 45 employees and dozens of large customers that are buying its products for the practical help they provide, he said.
“Enterprise smart glasses may not be huge today, but it has so much potential,” said Dayna Grayson, a partner at NEA in Washington who is joining the APX board along with Peter Barris, another partner at the firm. “We feel like it’s going to grow really, really quickly.”