The startup IRIS has started and Indiegogo presale campaign for not just one (a major challenge for a new company) but two different HUD designs, one “laser” and one DLP based. Their video and “story” talk about how they designed this HUD and even show some CAD pictures, 3-D printing (of what?), and a CNC milling machine (but not showing what is being made).
The problem is that this “new” unit looks almost identical at every point to Pioneer HUD announced shipped in Japan in 2012 (with a slightly updated version in 2013) see such as, “The Verge” article from May 2012. Pioneer’s model was also a “Laser HUD” and used a Microvision beam scanning mirror and laser control electronics.
Pioneer then in late 2013 Pioneer introduced a less expensive model based on Texas Instrument’s DLP that I wrote about on Seeking Alpha. And low and behold IRIS also has a DLP version. Where the Laser version was sold with Pioneer’s proprietary navigation system, the DLP version was sold in Europe that connect to a smart-phone.
According to IRIS’s Indiegogo campaign,
This limited quantity of Laser (30) and DLP (300) units are being assembled and will be ready to ship at the end of the campaign.
Assuming that if IRIS is actually going to be delivering these products (that is always a big “if” for a new high-tech product on Indiegogo), the only rational conclusion is that they are shipping Pioneer’s unsold inventory of at least Laser and DLP engines if not whole systems.
Below are a series of comparison photos with alternating photos of the IRIS HUD and the Pioneer Laser HUD. I have draw lines connecting corresponding elements between the IRIS and Pioneer HUDs. I will go into some more of the business issues after the photos.
IRIS does claim to be adding features that were not in the either the Laser or DLP based Pioneer systems, specifically they say they are adding “gesture recognition” and connection to the OBD (on-board diagnostics) port. Being I think most generous, it could be that they are taking the old unsold Pioneer units and modifying them. I could be OK with this, but I am always a bit distrustful when I catch someone fudging on what they did.
Interestingly, the Pioneer DLP HUD (left) while it worked with smartphones, as does IRIS’s HUD, it looks quite different and it optically different in just about every way but the combiner. The Pioneer Laser HUD rear projected on a screen behind a large plastic lens that is then viewed via the combiner (the “combiner” is that large curved plastic mostly transparent but slightly mirrored lens at the front of the unit). The Pioneer DLP HUD front projects on a a screen that is then seen reflected in- and magnified by- the combiner.
Additionally, the Pioneer Laser HUD required you to remove your sun visor to mount the unit where their DLP HUD strapped to the sun visor (see the photo above). This got me curious how they could be selling two radically different designs that also mounted differently while showing a single product so I posted the follow question and got the response below on IRIS’s Facebook page:
Karl Guttag, “Is the case and mounting the same for the Laser and the DLP versions of the product?“
IRIS “Yes, Absolutely the same!“
I guess it is possible that they took Pioneer Laser HUD cases and reworked/redesigned them to fit the DLP and added gesture recognition and OBD. That would seem to me to be a pretty major effort for a small team with little known funding.
Yet they say they are going to ship units at the end of their Indiegogo campaign this month which would suggest they have them in-stock. If they are so close to having real product, then I would have expected them to be out there demonstrating them to reviewers and not just showing the carefully staged video on Indiegogo. Maybe they have something, but maybe it does not work very well. Something just does not seem to add up.
BTW, I have had the opportunity to see both the Pioneer Laser and DLP based HUDs. Frankly, neither one seems very practical. The Laser HUD requires you to remove your sun visor to mount it and they give you a small sun visor that only goes up and down (can’t block your side window and and does not cover enough). Additionally unless you are very short, the combiner tends to cut through your critical forward vision. The DLP version was worse in that it mounted below the sun visor and totally blocks the forward vision if you are tall and/or your seat adjust to a high position. The bottom line, there are reasons why the Pioneer units did not sell well.
I previously worked as CTO for Navdy which is also developing an aftermarket HUD product and could be seen as a competitor for IRIS. I currently have no financial interest in Navdy. Because of my prior position at Navdy and knowledge of non-public information, it is not appropriate for me to comment on their product.