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Android eyewear beats Google Glass to market

Dec 3, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Vuzix has begun shipping an Android-based eyewear computer to developers, and is now taking pre-orders from the general public. The $1,000 Vuzix M100 device is equipped with a 1GHz, dual-core processor and a 16:9, WQVGA display, and offers WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, sensors, a five-megapixel camera, and voice and gesture recognition.

Vuzix announced the M100 in Nov. 2012, and began shipping developer units in March of this year. Those who are already signed up for pre-orders via the developer program are now beginning to receive shipments, and now the company has opened up pre-orders to the general public, with availability due in two to four weeks. This appears to make the M100 the first eyewear computer to ship to the public, beating out Google Glass.



Vuzix M100

 

The M100 sells for $500 less than the developer version of Google Glass, listing at $1,000. However, this is twice the $500 price that Vuzix projected back in January when it unveiled the device at CES.

The Vuzix M100 is designed for a variety of industrial, medical, retail, and prosumer applications, according to the Rochester, New York based company. Like Google Glass, the M100 offers Bluetooth 4.0 sync with an Android phone, with an iOS version under development. However, it’s more of a full-throated Android device than Google Glass, not only offering built-in WiFi, but also “most of the features and capabilities of a modern smartphone, without a cellular radio, in a hands-free wearable device,” says Vuzix.



Vuzix M100 up close

 

Like Google Glass, the M100 runs a modified version of Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) on one of the very first Cortex-A9 system-on-chips: the 1GHz, dual-core OMAP4430 SoC from Texas Instruments. The device ships with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of flash, and a microSD slot.

The M100’s monocular display can be placed over either eye, and can be used with or without a bundled pair of safety glasses. It offers WQVGA resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which would place it somewhere between 428 x 240 and 480 x 272 pixels. The display appears as if it were a four-inch smartphone screen seen from 14 inches away, says Vuzix.



M100 with safety glasses (left) or without
(click image to enlarge)

 

Users can control the device with four control buttons or else use an Android app running on a paired Android device. Like Google Glass, the M100 offers voice navigation features, and it also provides 3 degree-of-freedom (DOF) head tracking and gesture controls that make use of an array of built in sensors. Additional features include GPS and a 5-megapixel camera that supports 1080p video. A light comes on to indicate to others when the camera is in use.

The 600mAh battery is said to last one to two hours under normal usage, and is backed up by an external 3800mHa battery pack that can extend that to about six to 12 hours, says Vuzix. The pack charges the phone via a mini-USB connection, and can be attached with a belt clip. No weight was listed for the M100, but the prototype that was unveiled earlier this year was praised for being lightweight.

Pre-installed apps are available for controlling the camera, as well as tracking timed events and managing a calendar. The device is said to be compatible with thousands of existing Android apps, and an SDK is available for building more apps. Apps can be designed in local mode (controlled by the M100, in HUD mode (in which the paired Android device is in control), or in a collaborative mode that leverages the power of both the M100 and the Android phone.

The M100 SDK and Android Emulator are available to registered developers along with an M100 device at an undisclosed cost. The SDK includes debug, profile, and testing features and includes add-on and virtual device extensions to the Android SDK. Pricing and policy details about the upcoming Vuzix App Store will be published at a future date, says the company.

Specifications listed for the Vuzix M100 include:

  • Processor — Texas Instruments OMAP4430 (2x Cortex-A9 cores @ 1GHz)’ PowerVR SGX450 3G graphics accelerator
  • Memory:
    • 1GB RAM
    • 4GB flash
    • MicroSD slot for up to 32GB
  • Display:
    • WQVGA color (Kopin White Pearl display module)
    • Equivalent to 4-inch screen from 14 inches
    • 16:9 aspect ratio, 15-deg. diagonal field of view
    • 2000 nits brightness, 24-bit color
    • Display shield for increased sunlight readability
  • Wireless — 802.11b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Sensors:
    • GPS
    • 3-DoF head tracker with 3-axis gyro, accelerometer, magnetic compass
    • 3-DoF gesture engine
    • Proximity
    • Ambient light
  • Other I/O — Mini-USB
  • Camera — 5-megapixel, 1080p video, 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Other features – ear speaker; 2x noise-cancelling mics; safety glasses; overhead mounting option; 4x control buttons
  • Battery:
    • 600mAh rechargeable internal
    • Up to 6 hours (display off), 2 hours (display on), or 1 hour (with camera and high CPU)
    • 3800mHa external pack (15 x 58.6 x 10mm) for 6.5 times battery life
    • Includes ultra-thin USB mini-B cable and belt clip
  • Operating system — customized Android 4.0

 
Further information

The Vuzix M100 is available now for $999.99, with shipments due in two to four weeks. More information and links to pre-sales may be found at the Vuzix M100 product page. More on the SDK may be found at the Vuzix Development Center.
 

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