Social Video Sharing Glasses, suspended by Kickstarter, migrate to IndieGoGo, raise eyebrows

vergence labs eyewear

If you’ve ever wanted to record your life without ever picking up a camera, the tech to do it may be just around the corner. Social Video Sharing Glasses, a new project on IndieGoGo, promise to record point-of-view video to an SD card, and as an added bonus, they can transform into sunglasses by flipping a switch to activate polarization. But in the world of crowd funding, there’s an inherent risk: Projects that have garnered hundreds of thousands in contributions have never seen the light of day, leaving “investors” in the dark. Are Social Video Sharing Glasses too good to be true, or a hot new technology right around the corner?

It’s an ambitious project for Vergence Labs, but the two-man team heading it up has an impressive resume.  Erick Stephen Miller, its CEO and founder, is a UCLA-educated MBA graduate who brings to the table experience from Disney, Sony and Digital Domain. His partner and CTO, Jon Rodriguez, is a Stanford-educated computer-science engineer with Facebook and Qik on his resume.

The concept itself isn’t complex. A pinhole camera is installed in the bridge of the glasses, with the video simply fed to an SD card. To darken the lenses, the project will use “chromatic shifting conductive glass.” An electrical current, typically just 1 volt, is applied to the conducting carbon layer that coats the lenses, which tints them. The layer itself is just 30 micrometers thin (about a third the width of a human hair).

Not only will investors be buying into the glasses, but, as its name suggests, there’s a social video component to the project. “Our web sharing site, YouGen.Tv will enable users to create social profiles and share 1st person POV ‘experiences’ as their real ‘life memories’ onto Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, from the same perspective, and point of view as they experienced them,” the project description claims.

So far, the IndieGoGo project has raised nearly half of its $50,000 goal. To snag the final product will run you $189, and the glasses will later retail for $299.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen glasses like this. The project is highly reminiscent of the Eyez project by the team ZionEyez. That project raised $343,415, but almost one year later, the team has nothing to show for its product despite boasting “top quality engineers working full-time on Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Software & Firmware development of the glasses.” With an almost identical concept, we have to wonder if two people and its purported part-time hires are up to the task.

While there is little to suggest that Vergence Labs has any affiliation with ZionEyez, the team does have a troubled history. Vergence Lab’s project was suspended by Kickstarter only days ago, despite reaching $63,790 pledged of its $50,000 goal. Kickstarter declined to comment on its reason, but spam may have been at play. One Twitter account promoting the project has almost 7,000 tweets in a matter of a few days. 

Stephen Lau, Senior Software Engineer at Google, shared some insight on the suspension in an answer on Quora

(Full disclosure: I work on Glass and have no particularly strong opinion on the Vergence Labs Epiphany Eyewear product one way or another)

I suspect it was likely due to the spam (or perceived spam) sent by “Sergey ‘Grin'”, or perhaps the comments left on many articles/blogs covering Project Glass pointing readers to the Vergence Labs Kickstarter. The Kickstarter Community Guidelines at… do explicitly say:

1. Spread the word but don’t spam. Spam includes sending unsolicited @ messages to people on Twitter. This makes everyone on Kickstarter look bad. Don’t do it.

2. Don’t promote a project on other projects’ pages. Your comments will be deleted and your account may be suspended.

The “Sergey ‘Grin'” email certainly seems to me to have violated the first of those two. It’s debatable whether their heavy promotion of Vergence Labs/Epiphany Eyewear on blogs/discussion/news about Glass counts as related promotion or can be considered spam.

Erick Miller, Vergence Lab’s CEO, responded:

Stephen, the apparent email that went out to some Stanford students from someone named Sergey ‘Grin’ — lol — we are not making any public statements about this because we’re unclear what this was about, but we had a chuckle about it, and a grin — at least we see this as an indicator that we’re gaining some visibility and interest w/ what we’re working on.

Since the project’s move from Kickstarter to IndieGoGo, there have also been inconsistencies in its campaign. The IndieGoGo project pages makes no mention of Wi-Fi in the glasses to stream the video live, or a launch date, despite having announced both in an earlier press release.  

Whether or not Social Video Sharing Glasses are worthy of your support is entirely up to your discretion, but a complex situation like this without a clear-cut answer is an important reminder about the woes of crowd funding. While many projects are garnering valuable financial support from the community to help further innovation, there are inherent risks, and some people will look to game the crowd-funding model. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to take the necessary steps to do your homework.

Check out the promo video below and let us know what you think:

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