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New Android eyewear butts heads with Google Glass

Jul 17, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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GlassUp, an Italian startup, has started taking pre-orders on Indiegogo for an Android eyewear display system billed as a simpler, lower-cost alternative to Google Glass. The GlassUp device is a receive-only Bluetooth accessory to a nearby mobile device, providing a monochrome, 320 x 240-pixel augmented reality display of incoming messages and notifications.

GlassUp was unveiled at CeBit in March, and is now up for crowdfunding on Indiegogo, where pre-sales opened today ranging from $199 to $399, depending on whether it’s a pre-release, pre-production, or full-production version. This is less than a quarter the price of the $1,500 Google Glass Developer Edition. Already almost two years in development, GlassUp is expected to ship to presales customers in Feb. 2014, around the same time Google Glass production models begin shipping to the general public.

The company has private investors, as well, and plans to deliver products even if it misses its Aug. 11 Indiegogo target of $150,000. After Aug. 11, presales will be made available at a higher price.



GlassUp is a receive-only Bluetooth accessory
(click image to enlarge)

 

While GlassUp looks somewhat similar to Google Glass, with a tiny embedded device and projected display system attached to the right stem of a pair of customized eyeglasses, it is far simpler in concept. To use a smartwatch example, it’s more like Bluetooth accessory models such as the Pebble or I’m Watch, as opposed to the more autonomous MotoACTV or Geak smartwatch computers.



View of GlassUp’s electronics compartment

 

The GlassUp device runs a modified version of Android on an unnamed processor, enabling it to display notifications on an Android or iOS device within Bluetooth range using an optical system that includes a set of mirrors and lenses. The company also plans to enable Windows Phone devices with a similar control app.



GlassUp application examples
(click images to enlarge)

 

The green-monochrome, 320 x 240-pixel overlay image is text only. Compared to Google Glass, the image is displayed lower in the field of vision, and placed slightly off-center, typically to the left, but with different placement options available to developers.

GlassUp can be configured to display emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook updates, news feeds, and more, which are shown briefly on the side of the field of view. To respond to a message, one needs to use the connected mobile device.

The 64-gram eyewear is equipped with Bluetooth LE, as well as sensors including an accelerometer, compass, ambient light sensor, and a precision altimeter. A micro-USB port charges the device for up to a claimed full day of operation — much better than the current Google Glass prototype.



GlassUp’s tiny touch interface
(click image to enlarge)

 

A tiny, built-in touchpad enables gestures including tap, double tap, long press, vertical swipe, and horizontal swipe, says GlassUp. One of these will be used to turn the device on and off, while others will be available for external developers to activate.
 

APIs and an app store

The company does not use the term “open source,” but says it will provide APIs to developers, as well as launch an app store. Its FAQ notes: “A few apps are made by ourselves, but the vast majority comes from external developers. We will select the best ones, in terms both of quality and of customer base, and identify them for you with a specific icon.”

GlassUp can display far more than social networking and news updates. Apps under development include hearing impairment support, tourism and sightseeing, navigation apps with turn-by-turn directions, sports performance data, and on-site real-time education and training. Other app concepts include translations and subtitles, game-related apps, and vertical industrial apps.

GlassUp is working with Italian eyeglass designers to create various style options. The initial production models will offer red on white or green on black designs.

According to an interview with GlassUp cofounder Francesco Giartosio by CNET’s Dan Farber, the company plans to introduce some new models in March 2014, including a prescription-glass option. Also in the works is a version that includes a camera for image recognition augmented reality applications. Giartosio notes that the company is considering alternative user-input controls including “voice control, winking, or gestures,” but these options appear to be farther off. Presumably, the built-in sensors could enable limited user input, as well.

The CNET story also notes that Google has asked GlassUp to withdraw its trademark application and change the product name because Google has filed a trademark for the term “Google Glass.” Farber notes, however, that “there is currently a registration cancellation action pending” against the Google trademark application. Google has also filed numerous patent applications for Google Glass (pictured on the right), including one that envisions a role in home automation.

In May, Lookout Mobile Security discovered a Google Glass vulnerability relating to “malicious QR code” execution, which it reported to Google. The search engine giant subsequently released a vXE6 firmware patch on June 4. Although Lookout proved the possibility of an exploit through its field tests, no actual reports of Google Glass being hacked surfaced.



GlassUp’s IndeGogo funding campaign video

 

Pre-sales for GlassUp are available for $199 and up on its Indiegogo page, and more information may be found on the GlassUp website. On Aug. 11, pre-sales at increased prices will open on the GlassUp website.
 

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