Google Glass, and projects like it, promise to be an exciting new future for how humans interact with technology. The problem, of course, is that the future these wearable computers promise isn’t here yet, or is it? Tired of waiting, artificial intelligence researcher Rod Furlan built his own prototype of Google Glass out of components already available. The best part? He outlined his process, so now we can all give it a try.
In his description of the prototype, Furlan admits to a few shortcomings compared to Google Glass, the biggest being that the he couldn’t fit all the components into a head-mountable configuration. His prototype has a separate computer that runs the mounted display through a cable. It’s not a perfect solution, but few people can claim to have Google’s resources when it comes to product design. As a proof of concept though, the prototype works.
The point that Furlan makes with his DIY Glass is that if Google is going into production with a wearable computer, then it must mean the components required to build one already exist, and that anyone with the skills and means to do so should be able to follow in Google’s path.
Furlan also points out that almost all the components are already in the hands of many people in the form of smartphones. Smartphones have processors, cameras, accelerometers, and network interfaces one would need to build a Google Glass-like device. The challenge is in arranging and configuring these components into wearable headgear.
The prototype Furlan put together is powered by a fourth-generation iPod Touch — jailbroken of course — and he pulled the optics and microdisplay from a now defunct Myvu Crystal he bought off eBay for $100. His prototype is built around a pair of safety goggles that lent themselves well to the construction, and he’s already working on replacing the iPod Touch with Raspberry Pi, because Raspberry Pi makes things better. It’s also because it will give him more control over things like the Looxcie Bluetooth camera.
The most interesting thing about Furlan’s description of his prototype isn’t in how he built it, but it’s when he describes using it. “My world changed the day I first wore my prototype,” he says in his article on IEEE Spectrum. At first he found the design of the device and its rudimentary software uncomfortable and distracting. The constant stream of information was overwhelming, but when he took the device off when the battery ran out he had a feeling of loss. His brain had quickly adapted itself to the influx of new information.
Furlan says the initial goal of implementing augmented reality with Google Glass won’t be the big breakthrough with devices like this. That, he says, will come when wearable computers start to provide what he calls “augmented cognition” by helping us remember names, faces, and facts.
You can read his full account, and maybe even try your own hand at the project, here.
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