In a year filled with turmoil ranging from the pandemic and social unrest, to business shutdowns and record unemployment rates, one local manufacturing company quietly grew its customer base and staff, its offerings and its bottom line.
“A year’s worth of revenues for Vuzix used to be around $1 million and we do that now every single month, and it’s climbing,” said Vuzix Corp. Founder and President Paul Travers. “It started because of COVID, but COVID was a forcing function.”
Henrietta-based Vuzix is a leading supplier of smart-glasses and augmented reality (AR) technologies and products for the consumer and enterprise markets. The company’s products include personal display and wearable computing devices that offer users a portable high-quality viewing experience, provide solutions for mobility, wearable displays and AR.
The company holds some 184 patents and patents pending and a number of IP licenses in the video eyewear field. Vuzix has won Consumer Electronics Show (CES) awards every year since 2005 and several wireless technology innovation awards, among others.
The company this week reported a 74 percent increase in sales for fiscal 2020, from $6.7 million in 2019 to $11.6 million last year.
“2020 was a transformation year for both Vuzix and the AR smart glasses industry as the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged and changed the way companies, organizations and institutions conduct their operations,” Travers said. “We experienced further growth in new customer acquisition around the world as more enterprise customers turned to our smart glasses for remote support, among other things, and the health care industry began using our smart glasses to perform and broadcast surgeries, provide virtual training and help care for patients in the ICU, operating room and during virtual patient rounds.”
Customer orders were up across the board, Travers noted, led by demand for the company’s M400 smart glasses, which helped propel record smart glasses sales in the fourth quarter and for the full year.
Among the tech company’s recent wins are:
Vuzix had no fewer than half-a-dozen announcements alone in January of this year, including a partnership with BioSig Technologies Inc. to offer remote servicing for its PURE EP System for electrophysiology. Vuzix’ M400 Smart Glasses will enhance the utility of BioSig’s systems in advance of its commercialization and rollout to hospitals nationwide.
Additionally, Vuzix in January entered into a joint manufacturing and supply agreement with Jade Bird Display, a Shanghai-based leader in micro-LED displays, to collaborate on the co-development and cross-supply of solutions incorporating super-bright microLED display engines and Vuzix waveguides.
“Everything’s virtual. Our glasses allow that to happen in so many ways. From keeping your manufacturing plants working in China, to meat processing for the food industry to the fashion industry in their manufacturing plants, we’re being used all over the world today,” Travers said. “Our products are great for warehousing. They’re great for onboarding people. There are just so many places that they’re being used.”
Vuzix was founded by Travers in 1997, following a successful career in Eastman Kodak Co.’s research labs. After his departure from Kodak, Travers started a business in his basement making sound cards for personal computers, which he eventually sold to Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and another West Coast company.
Travers also started a universal serial bus (USB) connectivity company that he sold to Falcon, before setting his sights on Vuzix.
“Vuzix was the first company to bring to the market a virtual reality headset for consumers, much like the Oculus today — although it didn’t have anywhere near the performance of the Oculus,” Travers said. “We sold maybe $6 million worth of these in our first quarter.”
Vuzix has a history with the U.S. military, and its current project is an Oakley-style smart eyeglass.
“We’ve been on a mission at Vuzix to make glasses light, truly wearable all day long and ultimately in a form that people will want to wear,” Travers said. “The world’s going to change in a big way. You can hold your phone up now, point it down the street and get directions and it’ll paint on the road a line. In the end people are not going to hold their phone up, they’re going to put a pair of glasses on and they’re going to walk down the street and all that stuff is going to be at their beck and call.
“COVID has been poignant in the last year at forcing some changes in the world and smart glasses are the best way to answer that,” he added.
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