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Wearing his signature product, the HMT-1, Andy Lowery is co-founder and CEO RealWear. (Photo courtesy of Andy Lowery)

Relying on hands-free or voice-enabled tech in your kitchen or in front of your TV may be a modern convenience worth enjoying, but in a workplace where there are real elements of increased productivity or even danger in the mix, hands free deserves a high-five.

Andy Lowery is the co-founder and CEO of RealWear, a Vancouver, Wash.-based company that makes the HMT-1, a rugged, industrial, head-mounted computer that he thinks is key to better connecting workers in certain environments. Lowery is this week’s Geek of the Week.

Originally from southern Illinois, Lowery sought adventure shortly after high school and was turned on by a United States Marine Corps commercial in which a knight battling a dragon morphs into a Marine.

“I wanted to be a Marine,” Lowery said. “I gathered my things and drove to the Marine Corps recruiter’s office. Door was closed, sign said: ‘Will return tomorrow.’ Deflated, I walked past an open door that said ‘Navy’ when I heard a shout. ‘Sir! Let me speak with you for a moment.’ Three hours later, I was in the Navy.”

His Navy career turned out to be a lengthy and distinguished one, as Lowery went from electronics technician to an elite engineering program all the way to Nuclear Propulsion Officer aboard the USS John C. Stennis. He completed active service in 2002 and continued in the reserves until 2015.

On the civilian side, he was a general manager of an electronics division of Tyco and then a chief engineer at Raytheon.

“In the midst of working with Raytheon I dabbled in more entrepreneurial pursuits,” Lowery said. “I co-founded DAQRI with Brian Mullins in 2010; we both believed that augmented reality had the potential to change the way we work, live and play. It was still early on for enterprise mobile AR; we struggled for traction. In 2013 we found support, so I left Raytheon in 2014 to take the position of DAQRI president. Over two years I helped lead the team and learned a lot. It was those years that influenced me the most from the perspective of scale. I knew that the business we actually were in was knowledge transfer, and above all, had to be safe. After DAQRI, I met with Dr. Chris Parkinson, a technologist and inventor, and shortly thereafter, RealWear was founded.”

Today, RealWear (No. 108 on the GeekWire 200 list) employs about 100 people with offices in Vancouver, San Jose, Calif., Beijing and Bangalore. 

Lowery believes that young people moving into the workforce to replace retiring Baby Boomers need to learn how to do a lot of things quickly, but much differently that the older generation. And he believes RealWear helps bridge the gap by accelerating knowledge transfer through its platform.

“We essentially are the tip of the spear of a connected worker program for industry,” Lowery said. “We are able to free a worker’s hands for the work by providing a wearable Android computer that is fully voice-controlled, even in extremely noisy environments. They can pull up documents, connect to other experts, and facilitate learning and problem solving in situ, meaning right there and then.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Andy Lowery:

What do you do, and why do you do it? At my core, I am a “chief engineer.” Chief engineer’s lead, build and fix. They apply the principles of systems engineering in the way they think, solve problems and live. They are the leader that just gets it done, often without the recognition or the glory that “business politicians” seek. From my perspective, chief engineers are like the “Tolkien Wizards” of our world.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Often the technology is confused with the problems we are trying to solve. People ask, what business are you in? Augmented reality? Wearable computing? Voice recognition? We are doing all of that today. RealWear is in the business of connected knowledge. We are doing our part to balance what is best in people and machine, to accelerate global efficiency and bring greater global balance. Today that is with voice, wearables and augmented reality. Tomorrow it could be by uploading the knowledge to pilot a B212 helicopter (#matrix).

Where do you find your inspiration? I am inspired by the stories of stubborn, passionate and creative pioneers. I am inspired by those who see humility as a strength.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? The internet. Now that we are connected, it would be hard to go back. The democratization of information and also unfettered access to that information (#netneutrality), and for that matter other infrastructure-related resources such as energy will, one day, improve our capacity to support balanced growth and advancement in harmony with our environment. Where we are as a people, I believe that we will trend towards a more balanced society as we grow past a goods-centric society. The internet is a step in that direction.

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? RealWear has found home in a refurbished Civil War era barracks. It is a real honor to work out of a building steeped with such tradition and history. The office kind of takes on a RealWear “steampunk” vibe as we cross that history with our state of the art technology. My work space is always simple, neat and mobile. Simple and neat, so that clutter in my environment doesn’t further clutter my mind. And mobile so that it can move with me at a pace fueled by my inability to sit still.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Love what you do. If you love to travel internationally, work into a role that travels. If you love to spend time with family, start a business with your significant other (use caution).

Mac, Windows or Linux? Currently Mac, but I have been hopeful for a Linux crossover, such as Lindows (now LinspireOS). I have been following them since Microsoft lawsuit days.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Kirk.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Transporter = instantaneous spatial travel. Time machine = instantaneous temporal travel. I am going to go with a “TARDIS” styled time machine, fusing my space-time travel into one machine (leave the cloak with Harry).

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Who is this “someone”? Can you please put me in touch with this person? (the word choice “gave” is quite interesting here).

I once waited in line for … A sneak peek, pre-released look at “Skyward Sword” while waiting for “Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony” to begin.

Your role models: I’ll list a few and explain why I favor them through one of the great things that they have said.
• “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” — Stephen Hawking.
• “It is not the critic who counts … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …” — Teddy Roosevelt.
• “It is said that a wise man who stands firm is a statesman and a foolish man who stands firm is a catastrophe” — Hyman Rickover, Father of the Nuclear Navy
• “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog – Mark Twain
• “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Greatest game in history: Considering the year of release (1982), I am going with “Dungeons of Daggorath.” So far ahead of its time.

Best gadget ever: Easily the RealWear HMT-1 hands-free ruggedized wearable computer because it’s connecting workers to people, places and things in industry and works right out of the box.

First computer: TI TRS-80 Color Computer with 16K of memory! (it still works).

Current phone: iPhone 8 Plus.

Favorite app: DAQRI Elements (unfortunately retired), designed by Mike French.

Favorite cause: A variety of transformational education initiatives.

Most important technology of 2018: Machine learning relating to adaptive and dynamic spatial abilities.

Most important technology of 2020: The internet of energy.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: To be human is to be curious. The innate ability to follow your curiosity to the edge of understanding takes great intelligence. The stamina to break through to discovery takes great passion. The special combination of curiosity, intelligence and passion make for one hell of a geek. Quest to be the best geek you can be.

Website: RealWear

Twitter: @andylowery

LinkedIn: Andy Lowery

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