Google's smart headset has some Italian competition

  • AFP
  • |
  • Updated: Jul 18, 2013 11:11 IST

GlassUp Classic Look. Photo: AFP

Based in Venice, GlassUp is a more fashion-conscious, inconspicuous and privacy-centric alternative to the search giant's headline-grabbing Google Glass.

Described by its creators -- a programmer, a smartwatch engineer and a heads-up display manufacturer for the Italian air force -- as primarily a second screen for internet-enabled devices, it displays notifications (incoming calls, text messages, tweets, etc) in the wearer's line of vision and doesn't need to react to voice commands. Nor does it have a built-in camera for constantly filming from the wearer's perspective. Instead, it has a massive battery life and, thanks to a heavy dose of Italian design, actually looks like a pair of high-end spectacles, rather than something purloined from the set of "Star Trek the Next Generation."

Another big plus is how the information is displayed. It is projected centrally. To explain the advantage of this feature, the founders use a metaphor. Because Google Glass displays information to the right of one eye, the experience is like checking a car's rear-view mirror, whereas with GlassUp it's like looking out at the windshield. This is a feature they believe will be crucial in creating apps for athletes and even for bicycle and motorbike riders. They will be able to receive information without taking their eyes off the road or having to refocus their gaze.

The information, transmitted to the device via Bluetooth, is displayed in green monotone to prolong battery life and the headsets have a built-in trackpad for switching the device on and off. The pad also has other command touches which app developers will be able to use to add functionality to applications developed specifically for the headset.

In order to draw attention to the project, which has already been running for two years and which was started before any of its founders had ever heard of Google's entry into the same field, the company has launched an Indiegogo campaign that will also take orders for the first units. However, as mentioned in bold type on the campaign page, although GlassUp is attempting to raise $150,000 ($18,775 raised so far and 24 days to go) the company has already completed its true funding goal thanks to business investment.

Another area where it beats Google Glass is on price. Indiegogo backers will be able to secure a pair for $299 (expected to be delivered in February) while the company hopes to be able to sell the finished product for $399 complete with built-in prescription lenses and, depending on persuasive app development, a version with an in-built camera also for $399 by March next year.

Google is yet to confirm when its headset will be ready for consumers but is currently charging app developers $2500-$2000 for an explorer edition pre-production version of the device.


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