"ZEISS Smart Lenses get right what Google Glass got wrong." (Wired, January 2016)
With an internal start-up, without an enormous budget, ZEISS managed to achieve something that Internet giant Google failed to do, even with huge budget: to create data glasses that don’t look like data glasses – and they feature Augmented Reality (AR) functions for the mass market. In less than 12 months, a start-up team within the company delivered a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). With the ZEISS Smart Data Glasses, similar to a head-up display, a ‘flying screen’ appears in front of your eyes that can display relevant information and also videos, but unseen by others. The prototype was one of the highlights at the CES in Las Vegas: the innovative solution made in Germany was listed as one of the top ten gadgets by the US magazine Wired.
Digital vision through powerful lenses
ZEISS has a reputation for optics, so the idea to combine the highly developed craftsmanship in optical lenses with innovative digital solutions is rather obvious. The result, however, and the way ZEISS got there is special. The lenses that are used in the data glasses by ZEISS make use of a special structure, so called Fresnel lenses. The principle is known from lighthouses, where it makes ultra-flat, yet extremely powerful lenses possible which focus the light to guide ships. The innovators at ZEISS integrated this structure into the glasses in order to project data into the field of vision without the need of an external prism or anything like that – the look and feel does not differ much from normal eyewear. Combined with a powerful digital unit, the future becomes reality.
How to launch new product innovations successfully?
Another huge challenge is to bring brilliant ideas to the market and make them a success. In order to get there, the internal Start-up Smart Optics struck a new path within the Carl Zeiss AG. It showed mass manufacturability, reaching target cost and clear focus on customer needs of an optical invention for a data glass application within 10 months. Driving down the time of development and overheads by increasing the iteration speed in parallel is a key aspect to reduce the inventions time to market. Being fast is one of the key criteria if the window of opportunity opens for a new product segment – and agile processes are the way of choice to get there.