Raspberry Pi glasses and the rise of DIY wearables

Can DIY and Kickstarter projects save wearables from being the gadgets that not even the geeks will wear?
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

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.

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

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