Raspberry Pi glasses and the rise of DIY wearables

Raspberry Pi glasses and the rise of DIY wearables

Summary: Can DIY and Kickstarter projects save wearables from being the gadgets that not even the geeks will wear?


We've seen Raspberry Pi smartphones and tablets, now here comes the Raspberry Pi version of Google's Glass headset.

The Raspberry Pi blog has highlighted a DIY headset that can be powered by the diminutive computer, noting that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to add voice control or a camera, to bring it up to the same level of sophistication as the Google headset.

Raspberry Pi : Vital statistics

  • Broadcom BCM 2835 chipset
  • ARM1176JZFS chip with a floating point co-processor, running at 700MHz
  • Videocore IV GPU, capable of BluRay quality playback, using H.264 at 40MBits/s
  • Ships with OpenGL ES2.0 and OpenVG libraries
  • HDMI out
  • Model B: 512MB of memory, two USB ports and a 10/100 BaseT Ethernet port
  • Model A: 256MB of memory, one USB port

The 'DIY glass' was built by electronics company Adafruit with video glasses that cost around $100, while the 3D-printed parts of the frame are a free download on Thingiverse. This display uses composite video to connect to the Raspberry Pi — which itself costs about $40.

As cheap as this do-it-yourself version might seem, it's actually more expensive than Google's own model. The cost of Google Glass was put at a mere $80 by a recent analysis of the device, although this only accounted for the components themselves and not the costs of research and development. A high-end smartphone such as Samsung's Galaxy S5, by contrast, costs around $256 to make.

This reflects the big issue for wearables: too much hardware and they are too bulky for anyone to wear and have a battery life measured in hours; too little and they don't really add any benefits. And of course for many wearables the really smart stuff resides in the services — such as Google Now — that are tucked away in the cloud rather than on the device itself.

Still, the DIY approach might still work for wearables. More than any other technology, it will have to marry style and usability, and right now among the many problems facing the current crop of wearable devices is that they are so irredeemably ugly. Expecting the big consumer electronic giants to crack this one alone may be a bit optimistic — after all, one of the few successful smartwatches so far, Pebble, was a Kickstarter project.

Adafruit also sells Flora — a round, sewable, Arduino-compatible microcontroller designed for wearables projects. Perhaps a DIY approach can help infuse some cool to a market that still suffers from a plague of devices so uncool that even the techies won't wear them.

Further reading

'We thought we'd sell 1,000': The inside story of the Raspberry Pi

Topics: Emerging Tech, Mobile OS, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Bluetooth

    We have all seen people walking around with a Bluetooth headset for there cell phone. I keep wondering when there will be a Bluetooth Google glass like headset. It could be lighter since the processor is not on your head. It would just be a camera, display, mic, and ear bud. Having all software as an app would open up the development to a much broader base.

    It may be out there and I have just not found it.
    • This is what I'm looking for

      having a heads up display that connects via Bluetooth, with mic/ear bud and camera, to a phone seems so much better than trying to have a full "phone" in the device. It doesn't need processor, memory, or an operating system. Why bog down the device with more stuff that'll reduce its battery.
    • Batteries - and Bandwidth

      Throw out the battery, get rid of the RF Bluetooth - have a small thin cable at the back of the glasses, running to a mobile-phone sized box o' smart tech sitting in a shirt pocket.

      With news of people being mugged for their glasses, a secondary rear-facing video recorder may be an option. Along with a panic button.
  • Whadafuh?

    This is a joke, right?
  • Not new

    Stephen Hawking has been doing wearable computing for decades.
  • Wearable

    I for one am perfectly happy with my smartphone in my pocket. I have no need for the wearable glass. I could see some very limited utility for some workmen, but not much.
  • The (Near) Future of Wearable Tech

    Great article Steve – I agree that wearables are still too awkward for mainstream use; plus as you mentioned, the battery life isn’t nearly long enough for all day usage. Wearables need to be aesthetically cool, or integrated into clothing to be socially acceptable. When it comes to acceptance of wearables so far, we are seeing the greatest traction in the health and fitness world. My company, Mobiquity, recently conducted an independent study which found that 55% of health and fitness mobile app users plan to add wearables – with pedometers and wristbands topping list as most popular devices. For more information, check out my recent blog post on the findings: http://www.mobiquityinc.com/future-%E2%80%93-least-near-future-%E2%80%93-wearables-may-just-be-health-and-fitness-tracking
    - Scott Snyder, president and co-founder of Mobiquity.
    Scott Snyder
  • With pedometers and wristbands topping list? No kidding?

    Talk about a gimme' - big difference between walking around with pedometer and walking around with interactive glasses, so I could have told you that, save you the trouble. :)
    • Except that what you said would have been an assumption...

      not fact.

      The research study identified it as a fact.
      • Not an "assumption" by any means

        but an educated statement based on prior data sets, and some logic.

        Many people are already walking around with pedometers and wristbands, so given the reason on why they do so already, connected glasses wouldn't negate the reasons why they do so.

        Some things don't need research to find the answer, as we have the data sets already -

        Is it an assumption to say that the majority of Americans have no desire to swallow a deadly poison that has no known antidote?

    That screen!
    Must be the size of a Mack Truck before your eye!
    it looks heavy. Will people walk around, tip-headed?
    LOL, those who wear there hat tipped to one side... this gadget will straighten it out.
    BACK to the draw'ring board.
  • who's a pirate

    if you like only seeing out of one eye of what’s in front of you I suppose.