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Build Your Own Google Glass

January 4, 2013 | Telepresence Options

googleglasses.jpgA wearable computer that displays information and records video

By Rod Furlan  /  IEEE Spectrum

Last April, Google announced Project Glass. Its goal is to build a wearable computer that records your perspective of the world and unobtrusively delivers information to you through a head-up display. With Glass, not only might I share fleeting moments with the people I love, I'd eventually be able to search my external visual memory to find my misplaced car keys. Sadly, there is no release date yet. A developer edition is planned for early this year at the disagreeable price of US $1500, for what is probably going to be an unfinished product. The final version isn't due until 2014 at the earliest [see "Google Gets in Your Face," in this issue].

handsgoogle02-1356623812671.jpg
         Illustrations: Jason Lee

But if Google is able to start developing such a device, it means that the components are now available and anyone should be able to follow suit. So I decided to do just that, even though I knew the final product wouldn't be as sleek as Google's and the software wouldn't be as polished.

Most of the components required for a Glass-type system are very similar to what you can already find in a smartphone--processor, accelerometers, camera, network interfaces. The real challenge is to pack all those elements into a wearable system that can present images close to the eye.

I needed a microdisplay with a screen between 0.3 and 0.6 inches diagonally, and with a resolution of at least 320 by 240 pixels. Most microdisplays will take either a composite or VGA video input, the former being the easiest to work with. A quick search on the Alibaba global supply website returned several candidates; most suppliers will gladly fulfill orders for a single display and matching control electronics if you contact them directly. However, the corresponding optics for mounting these displays--which required them to be placed directly in front of the eye--were too bulky.

To build a sleek device, I needed to be able to mount the actual display on the side of the head and bring the image around to the eye. This setup is actually easy to make if you have the right equipment, which I don't. Luckily, back in 2009, a company called Myvu (now out of business) sold a line of personal head-mounted video displays for iOS devices. Myvu's products were sleek and small because they used a clever optical system alongside side-mounted screens.

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