Even though Google Glass has yet to be released to the public, it’s already made a huge splash in the wearable technology world. From fights at bars to talk about a smart contact lens, Glass is changing how we think about wearables. But a Japanese company called Telepathy is looking to challenge the California monolith.
Making a Name
Takahito Iguchi, CEO of Telepathy, compares the Telepathy One to the iPhone when it came out in 2007: “Everyone didn’t think a device like iPhone would take off without a keyboard or an antenna. But iPhone of course is widespread in the world.”
Whether or not the Telepathy One will become as ubiquitous as the iPhone remains to be seen, but the venture capitalists that have contributed over $5 million to Telepathy certainly seem to have confidence in its potential.
As of now, Telepathy’s reputation doesn’t go much beyond “the other Google Glass kind of thing,” but with a projected release this year and global distribution planned for 2015, it stands ready to become a major competitor to one of the most hyped wearables in the short history of the field.
Because we don’t know exactly what Glass will be able to do, it’s hard to compare it to Telepathy’s projected specs. But Telepathy’s website describes its device as a real-time, hands-free communicator that allows the user to share video with people all over the world and receive immediate feedback.
In the Telepathy video, a man walks around a city looking at things, and the video transmitted by the device is received by a girl (presumably his girlfriend, far away) on her computer. She types a message and it appears on the Telepathy screen in front of the man’s eye.
How does this compare to Google Glass? The Glass website includes apps that give directions, analyse the user’s golf swing, give cycling stats, and send hands-free SMS.
Information on Telepathy’s potential functionality is limited, so it’s difficult to say whether or not it will be attempting to challenge Glass on these innovative capabilities. As of the writing of this article, the new Telepathy site is under construction, and the old one isn’t all that informative when it comes to the device itself.
A Serious Competitor?
Although it’s clear that Telepathy aims to be a very serious competitor to Google Glass, it’s difficult to see whether or not it’s likely to succeed in that aspiration. The company’s partnership with Hitachi for a study on wearable technology in enterprise situations does seem to imply that there are at least a few other companies out there that are backing Telepathy as a serious option.
Iguchi has also been present at a large number of conferences and events, promoting Telepathy, and seems to have garnered some support from the public.
As mentioned previously, however, the amount of support from developers and other corporations doesn’t seem to stack up to what Google has received. This is to be expected, of course, with Google being the tech giant that it is. A small start-up certainly has a chance to sneak up behind the Goliath of the tech world, but it’s tough to imagine that it will be able to do so without major support.
Google’s Android Wear is likely to be at the center of Glass, and its capabilities are impressive. Google Now’s voice commands and seamless integration with Google apps make Android Wear easy to add to any Android user’s life. Telepathy has partnered with Super Software to create a “Simple UI” that will “[limit the] user interface to almost nothing,” the goal being to make something intuitive enough to easily integrate into daily life.
Wearables, as we know, have to be good-looking for people to want to use them. We’ve gotten used to Google Glass’s toned-down, somewhat angular appearance, and most people seem to think it’s designed well.
Telepathy has gone a different way, with a more rounded, almost cyborg-like appearance. The piece that sits in front of the eye is very small, though the entire device seems a tad large.
Unfortunately, price is something that we don’t know about Telepathy. With Google Glass being $1,500, it’s hard to imagine that Telepathy won’t be a serious challenger on this front. Not many people are willing to spend that much money on a device that’s still considered an unnecessary accessory, and Telepathy would be wise to take this into account.
What Should We Expect Next?
With Telepathy still being pretty tight-lipped about its product and few details about its capabilities and potential partners, it’s really difficult to know what the One will look like and if it will shake up the wearables sector as much as Iguchi and his team hope it will.
Whether or not Telepathy’s device is ground-shattering, this entire area of technology is at a tipping point—ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes wrote recently that the end is nigh for Google Glass; he states that Google missed the mark on promoting and launching the product, having potentially catastrophic consequences for wearables.
Telepathy is perfectly positioned to take a different tack here, and to provide the empathy that Kingsley-Hughes calls for. Whether or not they take his advice and become a giant-killer remains to be seen.
No matter how Telepathy decides to go about their release and marketing, the wearables sector will be closely watching the progress of their device. With wearables becoming increasingly popular, each major device release creates new and potentially highly valuable information.
Iguchi and his team have been hitting the road for the past two years to promote their device at a number of events, and it’s likely that they’ll continue to do so in the near future. And their new website, which we hope to see soon, should provide some more information. Until then, however, only the Telepathy team knows what the One will be like.
Let’s hope they decide to enlighten us soon.