Laforge Optical Offers a Fresh Take on Smartglasses

BOSTON—Laforge Optical, a new player in the wearables market, is offering a fresh take on smartglasses. Although the company’s Icis eyewear has a relatively conventional appearance, it is actually a cloud-connected, Blutooth-enabled device featuring a heads-up display (HUD) that provides a user’s smartphone notifications around their field of vision. Packed into the stylishly contemporary frame is a camera, microphone and speaker that complement the hardware in a user’s smartphone.

Users will be able to interact with Icis using temple-mounted touch pads. Icis also boasts a 680×480 display that presents data from the user’s phone directly in front of their eyes. The glasses pair with a smartphone app which converts existing apps into widgets before displaying them. Widgets are created with an API, and are used to relay app notifications. Icis will be available in different styles, and can accommodate wearers either with or without a prescription.

  Laforge Optical's Icis Frame
Last month, the Boston-based startup launched an Indigogo campaign to support the continuing development of Icis, which the company hopes to field within the next 12 months. The company, which set out to raise $80,000, blew past its goal in just two days and then ended the campaign.

Icis uses proprietary frame and lens technology to create its unique HUD.

“We use a combination of mirrors, light pipes, beam splitters and one additional lens for sizing and focus to get the image in front of you,” Laforge Optical CEO Corey Mack told VM. “The image is focused at infinity. As long as you’re looking straight ahead you’ll see it. It frames the central portion of your vision. Even though the display is in front of your left eye, your brain stitches it together so looks like it appears in front of both eyes. You don’t have to worry about parallax, or issues with abberations. It looks as if it’s right in front of you.”

Mack said Laforge Optical is working with a prescription lab in western New York State to create the Icis lenses. Laforge Optical is currently narrowing down the list of suppliers that will manufacture the frames and lens blanks, he added.

Mack said that when he and the Laforge Optical design team set out to develop Icis, they put simplicity and practicality first. “We’re not overlaying things on people’s faces or using all this crazy 3D stuff. We want to enhance things by giving people what they need.”

Laforge will offer three versions of Icis: a basic model, Icis Bold, which displays at a higher resolution (1280×680) and can be customized to a finer degree, and a rimless model. ■