AR smart glass maker MAD Gaze announced it has received a 130 million yuan ($19 million) Series A round investment from DNS Capital and Black30 Ventures. In 2018, the Chinese augmented reality (AR) smart glasses developer was named one of Fast Company’s 50 Chinese technology companies to watch. This was soon followed by an $11 million pre-A round. MAD Gaze then made news in 2019 when the Indiegogo campaign for their new $399 GLOW smartglasses raised over $650,000.
CEO Jordan Cheng founded MAD Gaze in 2013. Over the past four years, the company has launched seven AR glasses: Ares, X5, X5S, X5P, Vader, GLOW, GLOW Plus, and a smart watch, MAD Gaze Watch, which was launched at CES in January. The watch uses bone conduction technology and has gesture control, which also controls their new GLOW glasses. The company plans to do an Indiegogo campaign for the watch before the end of March.
On its Indiegogo page, MAD Gaze says “Our latest MR smart glasses, GLOW Plus, is a new replacement of tablets and laptops. It is a binocular mixed reality glasses in a hybrid form. By simply plugging and playing, you can connect GLOW to your Android phone via USB-C display port — it is SUPER EASY. You can control your phone and view what’s on it right on the MR glasses.” It has a 53-degree field of view, which is like viewing a 118" screen from six feet away. There are a number of videos on the Indiegogo site show the apps in action.
“This new investment will enable us to expand to four continents,” said Cheng. “We’ve had a lot of success with business customers like Nespresso, Decathlon, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Sony, and Cathay Pacific Airways. They have taught us so much. We are using that learning to establish the GLOW in the world market.” Cheng says the company can sell more than 50,000 units worldwide this year, including 10,000 in the US this year. However, Coronavirus is affecting all electronics manufacturing in China, and the company has posted a warning to its Indiegogo buyers to expect delays.
MAD Gaze has established an online app marketplace, MAD Store, an automatic AR app generation platform, AR Cloud, a developer platform, Developer Console, and a remote solution platform, ME Support, for the GLOW. The apps represent a diverse number of enterprise and consumer verticals, including education, medical, security, and industry. The company says 3,000 developers have its Software Development Kit, and it will be offering dozens of apps, including many games, in the GLOW app store when deliveries begin this spring.
Cheng believes MAD’s first mover advantage, it’s unique gesture control, large developer ecosystem, and its attractive $400 price will give it a clear advantage in a market where Microsoft is focused on enterprise and Magic Leap has followed them, ceeding the consumer business. MAD Gaze’s main competitor is also a Chinese company, Nreal, which is planning to launch its AR smartglasses in Asia this summer, and the US in the fall.
The two VC investing in this round are DNS, a China-based tech venture firm specializing in mobile technologies, and Black30, an HK-based VC more broadly focused on new technologies. DNS CEO Jack Chan said in a statement that “MAD Gaze has seven years of experience in AR glasses. We think the deployment of 5G will now enable them to grow quickly.” The CEO of Black30 Venture Tiffany Leung said “MAD Gaze is the only AR company in China that has mass-produced 8 products and sold more than 10,000 units.”
XR Industry analyst Mike Boland, of AR Insider, said it’s still early for consumer head mounted displays and a first mover, even if initially successful, would still be vulnerable to Apple’s 2022 or 2023 launch of its smart glasses. “MAD Gaze is a company to watch,” he said. “They’ve made a lot of headsets. They know how to do that. But,” he added. “Remember, there were a lot of other mp3 players before the iPod came out.”
The MAD Gaze GLOW will be available for purchase in April, 2020.