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Chinese AR smart glasses startup plans funding round

MAD Gaze launches smartwatch that can be linked to its glasses

MAD Gaze is a Chinese startup specializing in AR smart glasses for consumers. (Photo courtesy of MAD Gaze)

BEIJING -- MAD Gaze, a Chinese company that develops augmented reality smart glasses, is preparing for a new funding round after launching a motion control watch and wide-angle lenses that can be used at a distance.  

Tech majors such as Microsoft and Google have long launched AR glasses but the technology has yet to be used widely in part due to high prices. Estimates by industry officials showed that the majority of consumer AR glass makers sell an average of only around 2,000 units per annum.

But with the advent of fifth-generation technology, industry watchers are hoping that smart wearable devices will become trendy with consumers.

Since its establishment in 2013, MAD Gaze has released a total of eight smart hardware products -- seven AR glasses and one smartwatch. The company's latest "Glow" smart glasses weigh 75 grams and are sold at 3,999 yuan each (about 62,000 yen).

MAD Gaze raised more than five million yuan (about $704,863) to produce Glow smart glasses on crowdfunding site Indiegogo in the fourth quarter of last year. This was in addition to 80 million yuan it raised in a pre-Series A funding round last year.

In January, MAD Gaze raised 130 million yuan in a Series A round from DNS in Shenzhen and Black30 Venture in Hong Kong.

With that war chest, it started mass producing those glasses in January and has shipped them around the world. Overseas customers account for 80% of the total, according to the company.

Zheng Wenhui, MAD Gaze founder and chairperson, said that the company has changed its strategy over the years. 

"Seven years ago, we thought of making smart glasses to replace mobile phones and developed many apps at our company and installed them on smart glasses," Zheng said.

"[But] we see that most people have purchased our products for one or two apps. We don't think that smart glasses will replace mobile phones. We are sure that will never happen in a short period of time," Zheng added.

AR glasses had tended to be heavy and bulky, but Zheng said the company has now developed "Glow Plus" which can be pocketed when folded.

Glow Plus has a viewing angle of 53 degrees, which means that it can be used on wide screens three meters away and can be connected to a smartphone. Unlike some AR glasses, Glow Plus is also stylish and looks like sunglasses. 

Aside from AR glasses, the company also unveiled a motion-detecting smartwatch at CES 2020, a key consumer technology trade show, in Las Vegas in January. The watch responds to 33 gestures.

The smartwatch can be used together with Glow Plus. 

"The smartwatch is useful for consumers to operate smart glasses easily and naturally in public places. At the same time, it means strengthening our product lineup toward cultivating the [consumer] market and also a differentiated marketing method," Zheng said.

In addition to consumer products, MAD Gaze has built its own AR ecosystem, which includes a MAD app store, cloud storage, a platform for developers and tech support.

MAD Gaze has formed alliances with coffee machine seller Nespresso, sports goods maker Decathlon, Cathay Pacific Airways, IBM, Microsoft, software company Oracle, fashion conglomerate LVMH, OPPO and Sony.

36Kr, a Chinese tech news portal founded in Beijing in 2010, has more than 150 million readers worldwide. Nikkei announced a partnership with 36Kr on May 22, 2019.

For the Japanese version of this story, click here.

For the Chinese version, click here.

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