Atheer Raises $8.8 Million For Augmented Reality Glasses Designed For Doctors

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While Google Glass has struggled to gain momentum within the consumer space, digital health startups have found a promising market for the devices in healthcare. Augmedix is building apps that navigate an EHR and document a physician encounter in real time by connecting a scribe via the glasses. Pristine.io is building technology to link doctors with EMTs, and surgeons with medical students. Now, a new startup is targeting healthcare with its own headset. Atheer announced that it has raised a $8.8 million venture capital round through undisclosed investors. The new funding follows the company’s June 2014 Series A in which it raised $1.5 million from Signatures Capital, and a February 2014 Indiegogo campaign that netted it $213,000.

Atheer is building a headset that it hopes will be the first enterprise-friendly, augmented reality solution to come to market. Unlike Glass, Atheer is integrating data directly into the wearer’s field of view, and is designing a gesture-based user interface for wearers to interact with that data. Users can swipe in the air to scroll through an instruction manual, or can draw a square in the air to take an auto-focused photo. The headset runs an Android operating system, houses a Snapdragon 800 processor and, most importantly, looks like a relatively normal pair of glasses, when compared to others capable of delivering the same immersive set of features. Interestingly, the company is focused on enterprises, rather than consumers, for its product and has developed use cases for a variety of industries, including healthcare. The decision to stay away from consumers initially is likely a smart one. Consumers have been luke-warm about headset-based equipment but enterprises are much more open to the idea if it offers a fundamental improvement to their processes. Building an augmented reality business within the enterprise space first will give Atheer a captive base of end-users through which it can slowly improve the overall experience until it feels the device is ready for consumers.

The company sees its AR headset being used by doctors to navigate an EHR and review clinical notes. By itself, this probably not going to convince doctors that AR is a crucial improvement to their workflows. At this point, most EHR vendors have created mobile-friendly apps and tablets are just as easy, and far more familiar, than AR headsets for navigating a patient’s chart. However, there are use cases in healthcare where AR could genuinely improve workflow. Superimposing surgical site markings directly onto the patient, for example, could help reduce surgical site errors. Taking inventory and highlighting surgical equipment, such as sponges and clamps, as they are used in surgery could also help reduce errors. Simple way-finding cues, helping doctors quickly move to the room of their next patient without having to orient themselves and look at what room they are heading to next, could also find a market in healthcare.

Augmented reality is a technology that, when perfected, could disrupt any industry, healthcare included. Will Atheer pull it off on an $8.8 million funding round? It’s unlikely, but targeting enterprise users first is a smart place to start, and it will be interesting to watch what the company does now that it has enough money to build a full development team and bring its vision to life.


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