Google Glass Competitors: Real Rivals or Low-Rent Ripoffs?

It’s been a bumpy ride for Google Glass, the search giant’s flagship wearable. Many users aren’t convinced this voice-controlled technology is the industry’s future, and according to Wired, a German artist recently created a program to boot Glass devices from Wi-Fi networks. Still, Google’s device is generating interest; the New York Times’ Well blog reports that an increasing number of hospitals are using Glass to record surgeries, and at the recent Computex show in Taipei, two developers released their own smartglass designs. Are these Google Glass competitors real rivals or just low-rent ripoffs?

Meaningful Gesture?

The first prototype on display at Computex was from Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), reports PCWorld. The organization doesn’t market products directly, but it hopes to sell its smartglass concept to an interested manufacturer. On the surface, ITRI’s device looks a lot like Google Glass—same basic shape, head-mounted display, and Android 4.2. The difference? Instead of relying on voice commands, this wearable uses gestures. Ideally, the device will control a user’s smartphone, and according to researcher Chih-Hsiang Yu, “You could just leave your smartphone in your pocket, and then use hand gestures to look up content.” To make this work, users must reach forward far enough for the camera to see their hands; a swipe left or right scrolls between apps, while a closed fist confirms an action.

Drawbacks? The prototype was made of light, easily-breakable plastic and only came with 30 minutes of battery life. Still, ITRI thinks they’re on to something and says a full version would cost less than the $1,500 Google wants for Glass.

Familiar Ground

In the world of Google Glass competitors, ITRI could be called an innovator; ChipSiP, meanwhile, might be best described as an imitator. Their SiME Smart Glass also bears a strong resemblance to Google’s offering, but with far lower production value. Eschewing gesture control and voice commands, the device loads a full Android 4.2 interface onto the glasses’ display screen and requires wearers to move a cursor using an attached touch pad. ChipSiP plans to add voice commands and hopes to grab the attention of software developers to create new smartglass apps. This prototype came with more battery life than the ITRI version—two hours—and its predicted retail version will cost around $500.

The bottom line for these competitors? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and more importantly, it points to a growing interest in headset-based wearables. ITRI’s concept is an interesting side step from voice commands, while ChipSiP is taking the market mainstream with its lower-cost version of Glass. Google’s own future with Glass is uncertain, but there’s no shortage of competitors waiting in the wings.

Go Google, or would you buy off-brand?

a) Google or nothing. They do it right.

b) Gesture control > Voice commands.

c) Give me ChipSiP. Good enough, lower price.

d) I’ll stick with my smartphone.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons