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Does This Augmented Reality Make Me Look Fat?

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The best application of this technology is that the researchers figured out how to add a peripheral device to the shades so that scents can combine with the optical illusion effects to fool the wearer into thinking that the broccoli they are eating is really a big juicy slice of coconut cream pie, or whatever food item floats their boat.

By Lisa Suennen (Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Psilos Group)

Much has been made lately in the tech press about Google’s Project Glass, an effort underway at Google to develop and sell a pair of glasses equipped with an on-board cell phone, camera, display, and microphone. One of the latest entries in the “augmented reality” movement, the Google glasses are meant to allow you to far more effectively plow into street signs and parked cars by completely taking your eyes off the road when walking or driving.

Now I think I understand why CMS has seen fit to issue a new series of ICD-10 codes to allow for accurate coding when one walks into a lamppost either once or twice (see codes W22.02XA and W22.02XD, respectively; I wrote a whole story on these crazy ICD-10 codes which you can read here).

In theory, the true purpose of Google glasses is to free you from being tethered to such mobility limiting devices as cell phones in order to stream advertising directly to your eyeballs without the aggravating interference of three feet of arm length (one and a half feet if you are over forty and need to hold your phone up close to see it).

Not seeking to be outdone, the healthcare industry is also experimenting with augmented reality. My favorite example I have seen so far is also in the form of optical wear, this time brought to an eagerly waiting world in the form of glasses that “trick the wearer into thinking the plain snack in their hand is a chocolate cookie, or make biscuits appear larger.., offering hope to weak-willed dieters everywhere.” No really, I am not making this up.

According to an article which I read without glasses on the optician-focused website known as Google:

“Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed devices that use computer wizardry and augmented reality to fool the senses and make users feel more satisfied with smaller — or less appealing — treats. On one device goggle-mounted cameras send images to a computer, which magnifies the apparent size of the cookie in the image it displays to the wearer while keeping his hand the same size, making the snack appear larger than it actually is. In experiments, volunteers consumed nearly 10 percent less when the biscuits they were eating appeared 50 percent bigger. They ate 15 percent more when cookies were manipulated to look two-thirds of their real size.”

But the best application of this technology is that the researchers figured out how to add a peripheral device to the shades so that scents can combine with the optical illusion effects to fool the wearer into thinking that the broccoli they are eating is really a big juicy slice of coconut cream pie, or whatever food item floats their boat. Apparently this works with 80% of the people who have tried the device. Can I get a Hallelujah?

According to the article, the inventors do not yet know if they will commercialize their so-called diet glasses but are doing market research to see if anyone would buy it if they did. Um, really?

If you ask me, this is like doing market research to determine whether the sky is blue or grass is green. You don’t have to spend a lot of research effort or dollars to know that damn near everyone would fork over large amounts of cold hard cash if it made them lose weight without actually doing anything.

If there were a technology, particularly a mobile one, that allowed America’s overweight masses to sit on their asses in the privacy of their TV room and eat what at least seemed like large amounts of their favorite foods while losing weight, people would mow down their grandma and sell their souls to Rush Limbaugh to get to it. Cell phone? IPod? Wii? iPad? Sales of these products would pale by comparison. We are talking market size on par with that of toilet paper. When was the last time you went to a home that didn’t have toilet paper? My point exactly. This is nearly the freaking holy sine qua non of technology convergence. And I say “nearly” because they have missed the obvious mind-bendingly killer app, probably because the developers are men.

If you are really savvy about who buys weight loss and cosmetic products, combined with the fact that the vast majority of the spend on healthcare products and services is controlled by women, you would know that the perfect product wouldn’t be one that tricked you into eating less, but one which tricked others into thinking you are as thin and sexy as Halle Berry or Angelina Jolie, regardless of your actual dimensions. And this is because what people REALLY want is to be able to sit on their asses and eat whatever they want while watching reality TV and wearing their 20-year old sweat pants, but still have others think they are super fine. We want to be perceived as gorgeous and desirable without the inconvenience of working for it. And for that healthcare consumers would be willing to pay.

This means, of course, that women would part with untold billions for glasses that they would purchase for others–husbands, boyfriends, wished-for boyfriends, rival women, the mailman, your parents, you name it–who would then see the gift giver as too sexy for both their shoes and their cat. Of course the market would be exponentially larger than previously conceived for augmented reality eye wear since women (and undoubtedly men too) would purchase not just one pair for themselves, but hundreds of pairs of glasses to hand out at Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Valentines Day, Armistice Day, National Donut Day, and “just because I was thinking about you.”

Think of the possibilities. You could get a pair for your boss to ensure a more successful career, since people perceived as thin and fit get hired and promoted more often. You could get a pair for your kid’s basketball coach to ensure that they let your short, chubby kid get time in the game and off the bench. And of course, you could get a pair for yourself so you can stand in front of the mirror and joyfully sing “I’m Sexy and I Know It” instead of your previous soundtrack, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.”

If you are the purveyor of these Skinny Glasses (copyright and trademark mine!), you would be well-advised to diversify broadly throughout the glass-related space, as mirror sales would skyrocket.

In an ironic mobile technology twist, people everywhere would put down their cell phones at the dinner table to be able to look at the person with whom they are sharing a meal, as one’s dinner companion would be even more compelling than the latest YouTube cat video (which would be readily accessible on the now far less interesting Google glasses, now sitting in a drawer).

In addition to the obvious advantages of Skinny Glasses (TM) the product will be a huge job creator so will likely be eligible for some government subsidies. Why, you ask? Well, in addition to the myriad manufacturing and tech jobs needed to keep up with the soaring demand for the best thing since sliced bread, even sliced bread manufacturers would have to staff up as Americans would double down on food consumption since they could eat with impunity. Demand for flowers and jewelry would grow markedly as relationships flourished, creating new retail positions. Of course, someone always has to pay, and in this case it is probably bartenders who are dis-intermediated. Bars everywhere would start closing early since you would see someone attractive and make your move within five minutes of arrival and without that third drink.

Instagram, which got a $1.8 billion valuation for technology in search of a business model, has nothing on this idea. You can make your photos look cool and old-school hip on Instagram, but you can’t make that visible flap of saggy skin under your arms disappear from view or make your beer belly look like Channing Tatum’s six-pack.

Skinny Glasses (TM). I believe I have found the holy grail of digital mobile health and my next risk-free investment. Operators will soon be standing by to take your order.

This post was originally posted at Venture Valkyrie.

About the guest blogger: Lisa Suennen is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Psilos Group, a healthcare investment firm focused on providing venture and growth capital to companies operating in the healthcare economy. She serves as a Director on the Board of several Psilos portfolio companies, including AngioScore (chairman), PatientSafe Solutions, OmniGuide and VeraLight (chairman). Lisa blogs at Venture Valkyrie. Follow her on Twitter at @VentureValkyrie.