GlassUp AR glasses hands-on: Google Glass gets competition

Mar 5, 2013
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Gagging for Glass but can't afford Google's $1,500 Explorer Edition? GlassUp thinks it may have the answer, a wearable display that looks almost like a regular set of glasses, and harnesses the power of your existing smartphone to flash real-time information into your eyeline. On show in prototype form at CeBIT, and set to ship later in the year, GlassUp takes a more humble approach to wearables than Google does with Glass, making its headset a companion display rather than a standalone computer.

Whereas Glass has a full Android-powered computer integrated into the headset, GlassUp is merely a wireless display, using Bluetooth to link to your Android, iOS, or - eventually - Windows Phone handset. That keeps power consumption down; a standby time of around 150hrs is promised for the first-gen model, or a full day of periodic use such as, say, when emails or Tweets come in. An updated model will use Bluetooth 4.0, making it more power-efficient.

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What differentiates GlassUp is the display technology itself. Whereas Google has opted for a transparent prismic display embedded in a glass block positioned at the corner of your eye, GlassUp's patented system uses a micro-projector fixed on the inside of the glasses arm. That focuses a yellow monochromatic image on the inner surface of the right lens, at 320 x 240 resolution. Not enough to replace your phone or tablet for multimedia duties, true, but certainly sufficient for text updates and basic graphics.

Like Glass, there are a fair few sensors and controls integrated into the arm of the glasses: GlassUp has a touch-surface which recognizes tap and double-tap, long-press, and swipe, in addition to a power/control button. There's also an accelerometer, digital compass, ambient light sensor, and altimeter.

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Unfortunately, the prototype GlassUp brought along to CeBIT wasn't market-ready. More striking in its design than the concept - which manages to look reasonably discrete, in a chunky retro way - the silver headset required a USB link to a computer for its display signal and power, and the projection itself is onto a noticeably orange-tinted pane in the right lens. Meanwhile, even when the battery-powered version is ready, if you want to have the display active all the time - such as when navigating, for instance - the runtimes will be "a few hours" rather than the all-day longevity promised with more sporadic use.

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GlassUp argues that, whereas Google's wearable requires users to glance up and to the side to see the display, their system is far more discrete: the information floats directly in your eyeline. Another advantage is availability and price, though neither Glass nor GlassUp are quite ready for the mass-market. GlassUp is accepting preorders for the headset, at €299/$399, with deliveries of the first units expected in September 2013.


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