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Olympus made $1,500 open-source smart glasses

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Olympus is reviving the EyeTrek brand it used at the turn of the century to sell a series of head-mounted displays that were as ahead of their time as they were problematic. But the company isn’t creating a new set of TV glasses, at least not yet. Instead, the newest EyeTrek — the Insight EI-10 — is a $1,500 open-source, enterprise-focused smart glasses product.

The El-10 can be mounted on all sorts of glasses, from regular to the protective working kind. It has a tiny 640 x 400 OLED display that, much like Google Glass, sits semi-transparently in the corner of your vision when you wear the product on your face. A small forward-facing camera can capture photos and videos, or even beam footage back to a supervisor in real time. The El-10 runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and comes with only a bare-bones operating system, as Olympus is pushing the ability to customize it to a buyer’s likes and needs. It even has — drumroll — a headphone jack for earpieces or microphones (or both).

As for what it will be capable of, here are the confines it must work in: there’s 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, though Olympus says about 4GB will be needed for an operating system. There are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips (but no Bluetooth LE), and it’s all powered by the same Texas Instruments chip that runs the 8.9-inch 2012 Kindle Fire HD.

Battery life on the El-10 is only about 30–60 minutes, according to Olympus. But the 300mAh battery is easily swappable, and the headset won’t immediately power down while you change it out. That’s a nice touch when you consider that whatever use the El-10 gets as a product will likely come in an on-the-job, in-the-field setting. (For instance, I received a short demo where the display showed a split screen of my view and the view of an operator, my “boss,” and he was able to capture the view from my camera and mark it up with notes or and instructions.)

Olympus is trying to create a more open, customizable option for companies (or industries) that might be tired of more closed systems like what’s sold by Vuzix or Epson. Of course, Olympus isn’t going to stop normal folks and tinkerers from buying it. The company will sell the El-10 on its website and in some consumer channels, albeit with a warning that, for better or worse, this is not meant to be the next Google Glass.