Gadgets

Laster SeeThru: A $350 camera-free Google Glass alternative for the privacy-conscious

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Laster CEO Zile Liu says that devices like Google Glass don’t need cameras to be effective. And he’s creating his own Glass alternative to prove it.

The device, dubbed the SeeThru, offers a feature set that should be pretty familiar by this point: Users wear the device to get real-time information — directions, GPS data, etc – about the world around them, which they can see on the SeeThru’s small embedded display

But where the SeeThru differs from Glass is perhaps more notable than where it doesn’t. Rather than use a camera to identify objects and environments, the SeeThru uses its series of location and GPS sensors to get the job done.

This, Liu says, does two things: Not only does it improve location accuracy, but it also means that SeeThru wearers don’t have to worry about their devices freaking out the people around them (in theory, anyway).

“This is an augmented reality device, not a recording camera on your head. That’s our position,” Liu told VentureBeat.

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Obviously that approach has its limitations. The SeeThru can’t, for instance, translate foreign text in real-time like Glass can, nor will it be able to do any sort of face recognition. (Though I doubt too many people will be bothered much by that second limitation.)

Ultimately, those are shortcomings are ones Liu is okay with. As he points out, the SeeThru is almost entirely focused on activities like biking, driving, and skateboarding, where the user needs to have both hands free. This isn’t a device designed to be worn all day.

Another thing to note here is that the SeeThru, while conceptually interesting, might be even more conspicuous, unwieldily, and visually unappealing than Glass is. Then again, if you’re wearing a device like this, fashion probably isn’t your primary concern.

Another limitation that’s worth pointing out: The SeeThru gets its processing power and data connection from the smartphone attached to it, making the device largely useless by itself.

Laster has already launched a Kickstarter campaign for the SeeThru, which the company aims to ship to backers starting in April.

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