Don't get too excited over headlines claiming that a cheaper rival to Google Glass has emerged. In reality, the putative rival, Japan's Telepathy One, has much more modest and immediate goals—sharing what you see with friends or partners.
Sure, the Telepathy One device looks to be a sleek wraparound headset or visor in the manner of Google Glass, but it lacks any of the latter's augmented reality or other promised features. Instead, Telepathy One's headset's setup—involving a micro camera and a small micro projector to create an image that appears to float in front of the wearer's eye—is designed to allow wearers to stream live video and share images or prerecorded video with anyone using a related smartphone app.
According to published reports, Telepathy One currently relies upon the wearer's mobile phone for wireless Internet access; it communicates via Bluetooth and uses an OS built off Linux; and its creator, Takahito Iguchi, formed his startup of eight people in January 2013.
This week, Iguchi brought the device to a tech demo in New York City—an event that quickly led to schizophrenic articles with bold headlines followed by measured or even skeptical disclaimers.
"Telepathy One aims to compete with Google Glass" was how a CNET headline put it. The very first line of the article tells a somewhat different story:
The Telepathy One is no Google Glass. And supposedly, it's not trying to be.
Entrepeneur.com's headline similarly overstated things: "Google Glass Competitor? Startup Creates Its Own Computerized Headset." And similarly, the article makes clear that Telepathy One is anything but a competitor by quoting the device's creator himself.
As for Google Glass, Iguchi said his intention is not to be a competitor. "I don't think Google is my enemy," Iguchi said. "I would like to shake hands and create a new industry with them.
Even the usually sober Gigaom gave a nod to the hype with its headline: "A Google Glass rival emerges from an upstart in Japan." It delivers a full reality-check near the end of the article:
The Telepathy One isn’t really a threat to Google.
Many of the reporters described having difficulty lining up the projected image from Telepathy One with the view of the wearer, as well as the limited functionality on display in the Telepathy One prototype. The device only has one announced app so far—a preexisting Manga Camera app that turns photos of people into Japanese cartoon versions.
If Telepathy One can't deliver the wonders of Google Glass, at least it's delivering something soon. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has suggested Google Glass won't be widely available until 2014. Iguchi hopes to begin selling the device by the end of the year and at a lower price.
Telepathy One could succeed if enough people see value in social reality and it continues to have that field to itself. Meanwhile, over in augmented reality, shelves will soon be crowded with products from startups such as Atheer, First Person Vision, Lumus, and Vergence Labs.
Photo: Telepathy One
Jeremy Hsu has been working as a science and technology journalist in New York City since 2008. He has written on subjects as diverse as supercomputing and wearable electronics for IEEE Spectrum. When he’s not trying to wrap his head around the latest quantum computing news for Spectrum, he also contributes to a variety of publications such as Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, and others. He is a graduate of New York University’s Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program.