The idea of wearable devices isn't exactly a new thing, although the concept of wearable technology has gone far beyond the backpack computer-based concepts of the late 20th century. These days, powerful smartphones and tablets, coupled with fast Internet connections and innovative man-to-machine interfaces rule the wearable technology world.
Google introduced its Glass concept this year, and along with this came alternative input methods like gloves, as well as potential competitors such as one from Motorola. The concept of wearable tech has added another dimension, which is interaction with the real world, or augmented reality. This makes mobile computing all the more useful than simply accessing data from the device without context.
Google is definitely not alone in developing wearable technologies that may one day find themselves on your and my body in the next few years. For one, a company called Vuzix has developed an Android-based device called the M100, which resembles an oversized Bluetooth headset.
The device runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, and comes with an integrated “virtual display” eyepiece, WiFi and bluetooth connectivity, a 720p HD camera and motion sensors. According to Vuzix, the device can be used for all manners of interacting both with the Internet and with the real world — augmented reality style. The device can be used to take photos and videos, browse the web, send messages and navigate using mobile navigation apps like Google Maps. Motion sensing is done through a GPS sensor, digital compass, gyroscope and three-axis head tracker.
The Vuzix M100 also works well as a communications device, coming with a noise-canceling microphone and of course, the earpiece.
A few notable features:
- 1 GHz OMAP 4430 processor
- 1GB RAM and 4GB of flash storage
- Support for up to 8GB microSD
- 1280 x 720 WQVGA resolution display that gives the impression of being viewed from a distance of 14 inches.
- Bright display with 2,000 nits (about 10 times the brightness of an LCD), which should be useful for outdoor applications.
- Physical keys for volume, power and select.
- Device can be worn through the over-ear hoop, headband or behind-the-head band.
Now battery life may be disappointing, because it will not give you all-day computing, as per initial specifications. Vuzix says battery life is as follows:
- 8 hours of handsfree use
- 2 hours handsfree use with display turned on
- 1 hour handsfree use with display and camera turned on
What's great with Vuzix' device is that it works as a standalone computer, and is designed to interface with your other devices, say your smartphone or tablet. The M100 is supposedly platform agnostic, meaning it should work with an Android phone, iPhone or perhaps even other smartphones that can connect via Bluetooth or WiFi. The company is planning to release an SDK soon, so that developers can build on the platform.
No retail pricing has been revealed, although Vuzix says an early production model will be available for $999, while the project's software will be made available by December.
Is this something to look forward to? The Consumer Electronics Association has already given the Vuzix M100 a Best of Innovation award for 2013 in the “wireless handset” category, which means there is great potential in the device.
Will you buy a wearable device once these things come into fashion? Do you prefer a headset-like device, or one that comes in an eyeglasses form factor?