COVID-19 pandemic has led many industries to file bankruptcy in 2020. It’s been a rough year for the restaurant and construction industries. On the other hand, the telecom sector is not affected that much by the pandemic as the internet has become the need of an hour for every house. These low times have created an opportunity for telecom industries to explore and expand their horizon.
For example, Bharti Airtel partnered with Verizon to launch their video conferencing service – BlueJeans in India. Airtel BlueJeans offers enterprise-grade security meetings (which includes encrypted calls, ability to lock and password protect a meeting and generate randomized meeting IDs), events, rooms, and gateway for Microsoft Teams functionalities.
Likewise, Reliance Jio - a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), announced its first augmented reality-enabled glasses “Jio Glass” in India to enter into a new technology (Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR)) market.
Jio Glass weighs in at just 75 grams, has an inbuilt audio system supporting all standard audio formats, and gets easily connected to all smartphones. Due to a sudden surge in demands for remote communications using videos during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jio Glass is focused on video calls. Jio Glass uses a 3D holographic image of participants, in addition to their 2D avatar from the regular video feed. Every avatar appears right in front of your eyes in a virtually created environment, such as that of an office or a conference room. The participants can share files and make presentations while being virtually available in Jio Glass' environment.
Jio Glass currently supports 25 apps meant for video conferencing and online collaboration. It also supports voice commands for most functions, minimizing the need for buttons. For example, to make a video call to a person or more, simply say "Hello Jio, call x1 and x2", and so on. Jio Glass will make a call to those people, given it is tethered to a phone using a cable or Wi-Fi.
Jio is also launching its own online education platform called Embibe, which will be integrated with Jio Glass.
Similar products already in the market:
· Microsoft HoloLens - The premier device for Windows Mixed Reality, Microsoft HoloLens is a smart-glasses headset that is a cordless, self-contained Windows 10 computer. It uses various sensors, a high-definition stereoscopic 3D optical head-mounted display, and spatial sound to allow for augmented reality applications, with a natural user interface that the user interacts with through gaze, voice, and hand gestures. HoloLens had arrived in 2015. The HoloLens 2 currently costs around INR 2,61,921.
· Google Glass – Google started selling their smart wearable glasses to the public on May 15, 2014. A touchpad is located on the side of Google Glass, allowing users to control the device by swiping through a timeline-like interface displayed on the screen. It has the ability to take 5 MP photos and record 720p HD video. Google Glass can be controlled using just “voice actions”. Google Glass 2 is priced at around INR 74,000.
· Snap Spectacles 3 – Snap (the parent company of Snapchat) launched Snap Spectacles in India which comes with two attached HD cameras, as well as with a bundled 3D viewer (AKA Google Cardboard) and shoots video in a resolution of 1216 by 1216. These spectacles are the closest analogy to the Jio Glass in terms of their functionalities. Snap Spectacles 3 is priced around INR 30,000.
Wearable computing technology is as old as 1997. The father of the wearable technology, Steve Mann, talked about a prototype consisting of eyeglasses, a handheld control, and a computer worn in back under the shirt in an IEEE paper titled “Wearable Computing: A First Step Toward Personal Imaging”.
There are currently over 1900 patents in India that directly relate to Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and Virtual Reality technologies as specifically targeted towards smart glasses. Qualcomm holds the topmost position with 264 patents to its name, with Microsoft, Samsung, Google and Magic Leap making the rest of the top 5. Reliance Jio has zero patents to its name – and none are expected to filed in the future, if you ask us.
However, that does not necessarily mean Reliance hasn't done their homework. Qualcomm Ventures invested $ 97M USD in Reliance Jio platform to acquire a 0.15% equity stake “on a fully diluted basis” and Google invested $ 4.5B USD for a 7.73% stake. Facebook, Silver Lake, General Atlantic, and Intel are some of the firms that have backed Jio Platforms. Jio Platforms has sold a 25.24% stake and has raised a whopping amount of money around $ 20.2B USD in the past four months from 13 investors.
So even though Jio Glass is hardly a new product (and Reliance being notorious for knocking-off existing products), Reliance has clearly elevated the game with Jio Glass by getting the right partners that do have seminal intellectual property around the technology on board.