from the heads-up dept
The failure of Google Glass was an interesting thing. Somewhat-overblown privacy issues aside, the device may have just been ahead of its time, or ahead of the technology powering it — or it might have simply been way too expensive. Whatever the case, wearable computers and head-mounted displays aren't dead, and in fact we'll probably be seeing a lot of them in the future. Today, we look at one such offering: Vufine, a wearable display that does less than Google Glass, which might be its biggest strength.
As the video reveals, the creator of the Vufine has tried just about every wearable display product around, and concluded that they are "unfocused, overpriced, impractical and overcomplicated." That's a pretty solid diagnosis, and the Vufine attempts to solve it. Firstly, it's just a wearable display, not a full computer like Google Glass: it clips onto your glasses or sunglasses, connects to any device with an HD video output, and then projects a small HUD-like display box in your field of vision. This enables lots of integrations, with two immediately obvious ones: hook it to a smartphone for heads-up maps and communication and media, or hook it to a GoPro camera to serve as a viewfinder when shooting your own action footage. Turn the camera around, and it can serve as a rear-view mirror.
By limiting the device to this single, simple, useful function, they skirt around all sorts of issues that are raised by more robust products like Google Glass, including the aforementioned privacy freakouts about head-mounted cameras and microphones. The most immediately noticeable difference is the price: the Vufine aims to retail for only $150, an order of magnitude less than Glass.
Of course, simplifying the device also means giving up a lot of functionality. Things like voice control, gesture control, and streaming video from one person to another won't be possible unless the Vufine is hooked up to hardware and software that provides those abilities. This is less a "revolutionary new device" and more an innovative display for existing devices — not that there's anything wrong with that, but it may not generate the hype of something like Glass (though at the same time, probably won't generate the ire, either). And there's one feature that will likely irritate some, especially those who pursue wirelessness in all things: the Vufine attaches to your smartphone, camera or other device via a Micro HDMI cable. There are surely a lot of engineering and performance advantages to going the wired route, but the sight of a cable hanging from your face and disappearing into your pocket might be enough to put some people off the device altogether.
We've already looked at one of the Vufine's very attractive numbers — the price. Now let's consider a few others. Display-wise, it uses a 4x3mm micro-display that appears as a 4" display positioned 11" from your eye, at a resolution of 960x540 (a higher definition than Glass). It also weighs only 22 grams — about half of Glass and a quarter of the Recon Jet glasses. There's one slightly less attractive number though: the battery life, which clocks in at 90 minutes (compare that to 4 hours for the Jet, and a full day for Glass, though the latter can be drastically shortened depending on what features you are using). It can be attached to a USB charging pack for additional lifespan, but running a second cable from the Vufine to a pack somewhere on your person could be pretty cumbersome.