Ferruccio Bottoni has been working for FAUNA as the CEO since it was founded about a year ago. Today, he's providing some insights on what FAUNA is to him and what it holds in store in the future.
First things first, what’s it like to lead such an innovative company like FAUNA through such turbulent times?
Ferruccio: It’s exciting in both a positive and negative way. It’s the first wearable that mounts MEMS loudspeakers, the first wearable that mounts a two-way system - so a woofer and a tweeter - which is unique and pretty exciting. The negative “exciting” is Corona: It’s is a huge challenge for us. We have or have had Corona on all the locations we’re manufacturing our parts, first of all in China, then in Italy where we have our foundry. This caused at least four to five months of delay in our initial time plan.
But even without the global pandemic, you chose a very challenging path, seeing that you have Bose as a competitor with a really big name. What was the idea or motivation behind designing audio glasses with such a big competitor on the market?
Ferruccio: Well, we started development before Bose was on the market. We intitially had a lead customer who froze the project, so we decided “hey, let’s do it by ourselves”. It was too tempting to not make our own wearables, so we used part of the results we’ve achieved with this customer and got started.
The whole idea behind FAUNA is natural hearing without obstructing the ear canal. So you have this topic of naturality on one side and high-tech and a pioneering spirit on the other side. How does that work together?
Ferruccio: High-tech is the vehicle to design a wearable that is super light and quite slim in terms of industrial design. It allows us to provide this naturality - it's the bridge between technology and naturality. The idea of the design is really to hide the technology and create a wearable that looks like eyewear and doesn't make you look like a cyborg. Our design is classical and should meet the taste of many customers. We don’t expect to meet everyone’s taste, of course, but I think our glasses are more appealing than the cyborg look.
The technology used is not - contrary to the belief of many - bone conduction. Why did you choose to take the path of free-field audio?
Ferruccio: Bone conduction is not the way a human ear is supposed to work. It was discovered in the 19th century by Beethoven who had impaired hearing. So if you have hearing impairments, you can use bone conduction. It is, however, not the way to stream high-quality music, so we decided that since we’re designing something for the human ear, let’s use it how it’s supposed to work.
How is FAUNA as a product different?
Ferruccio: There is no eyewear that has this beautiful charging case we have, meaning you don’t need to recharge your eyewear with a cable. We have the battery lifetime extended as much as possible, meaning we’re at almost 6 hours of continuous audio streaming and working to extend it even further. We’re using acetate for the frame which is made from cellulose, so it feels good on the skin. We have decided to work with Zeiss lenses, so it’s not just a lifestyle product, it’s also a product for the home office or a professional like me who has to spend a lot of time in videocalls. My eyes don’t get tired because of the blue-light filter lenses and my ears don’t fatigue as I don’t block my ear canal. My ears don’t get sweaty or warm and I can wear this eyewear for about 12 hours a day without it annoying me.
What is the timeline for the current version of FAUNA?
Ferruccio: We are finalising the design validation and expect shipment of the first 500 units from China to Austria this month. We will also start all qualification and certification processes, meaning that we can start mass production in summer.
What comes after summer? What are you thinking about for the future of FAUNA?
Ferruccio: First of all, we will extend the features of FAUNA. We are currently working on getting an AMA certification with Amazon in order to interact with Alexa. We will also extend the FAUNA app - I won’t reveal any features right now, but it will work with any wearable device. Then we will start to work on the second generation of FAUNA, extending the product portfolio, making the industrial design even slimmer, making it even more appealing. We will of course also extend the colour portfolio and the shapes portfolio. So, lots of things planned.
As a final word from you: In the development process of FAUNA, what was the most enlightening thing for you?
Ferruccio: The whole process, I would say. It’s the first time I’ve been working on a B2C product, the rest of my life, I’ve been in B2B. The whole process was overall more interesting because it means not only satisfying a couple of engineers but thinking of how the final customer perceives this product, making decisions about all the materials, the visuals, the feel and touch of the glasses. Taking these decisions makes the project so much more than just working with wonderful technology. It’s also about creating something useful and beautiful for a person's everyday life.
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