Biel Glasses develops smart glasses that allow people with low vision to get around on their own, without help from other people. The glasses use 3D vision and artificial intelligence algorithms to detect obstacles and, through mixed reality, show them to the user in a way they can perceive with their low vision. So, they resolve mobility issues and make people more self-reliant, minimizing the dependence and social isolation these people can experience. Biel Glasses was one of the projects that participated in the first year of the Biocat acceleration program CRAASH Barcelona. The company’s co-founder and CEO Jaume Puig explains the company’s history and plans for the future.
Why did you want to be an entrepreneur?
In my case, the goal wasn’t entrepreneurship in and of itself. It was to solve a problem that affected someone I love very much: my son Biel, who has low vision. It turns out that, to do so, I had to start up a company, as this was the best way to raise and channel the resources needed to develop the project. Indeed, I already had entrepreneurial experience at two companies before. So, starting one to canalize this project was nothing new to me.
The most important decision was to build our own device. For two years, we assessed possible devices we could develop an app for that would do what we wanted to do, which would surely have simplified and shortened the process. The result, however, was that none of them met our requirements. So, instead of developing an incomplete solution, we chose to integrate modules from various manufacturers to design a piece of hardware that was really able to meet patients’ needs, even though that meant a much longer road. At Biel Glasses we believe that sometimes you have to take the long road if you really want to get to the top.
The best advice I’ve ever been given was to make mistakes quickly. All of us make mistakes sometimes, and in the business world I think it is key to do so as quickly as possible so you have time to fix it. From this you can extrapolate the need to validate the need, business model and technology proposed, in that order. We’ve done this first by surveying patients and other stakeholders involved in the business model (in our case, opticians, ophthalmologists, etc.). These surveys allowed us to better define our value proposition and business model. Now we’re testing the prototype with patients in collaboration with the UPC School of Optics and Optometry. We’re reliably proving the functionality and usability of the device, as well as obtaining valuable information on user experience in order to make improvements before starting manufacturing.
In the short term, we’ll continue focusing on product development and validation with patients to achieve our first functional model. In the meantime, we’ll begin the CE marking and certification processes. And we’ll start marketing the first model of the product, expected for September 2020. In terms of development, we’re advancing the product technology to develop new functions and optimizing those it already has.