After the near-spectacular failure that was Google Glass, it comes as somewhat of a shock that any “lesser” company would be venturing into the world of head-mounted wearables anytime soon. I say lesser because for all intents and purposes, Google stands as one of the most innovative, forward-thinking technology firms in the business right now. They are singlehandedly responsible for Google X labs, the semi-secret facility dedicated to what Google deems “major technological advancements” such as balloon-powered internet, self-driving cars and of course, the ill-fated Google Glass. If the mighty Google could not succeed in their own campaign to inundate the world with head-mounted wearables, what makes anyone else think that they could? Well, the harsh truth of the matter is that geeks and technophobes alike just couldn’t seem to wrap their head around (or get their head wrapped around) a device that made them feel so completely, conspicuously… nerdy. So a company called Optinvent is taking a new approach – super comfy, over-the-ear headphones that just so happen to feature a pulldown augmented reality display.
Optinvent’s nifty little combo gadget was first shown at last year’s CES as a concept device and last week they finally launched their Indiegogo campaign to bring the product to fruition. The ORA-X, which is essentially a wearable tablet wrapped in a pair of really great headphones, promises to deliver a brighter picture than Google Glass was able to (specs list it at 3,000 nits) while also offering a broader field of view. The device runs a full version of Android 4.4 Kitkat and has full access to Google Play. If that last sentence left you scratching your head let me clarify – while the ORA-X is obviously able to run apps from other devices via Bluetooth, it can actually run its own standalone apps as well. The device as a whole is easily controlled through a touchscreen mounted on the right headphone, where the display itself is also housed. And for you lefties out there, Optinvent’s got you covered – this ambidextrous gadget gives you the option of a left-side mount as well. Inside you’ll find 8GB of storage and 2GB of RAM along with Bluetooth 4.0 LE and WiFi b/g/n connectivity, plus a micro USB port and of course a 3.5mm analog input. Altogether, Optinvent says it should offer its wearer an experience akin to looking at a 70-inch screen from 15 feet away.
Aside from the obvious cool factor associated with augmented reality headphones, these are actually a really great pair of cans. The audio components housed inside still take up more space than the added Android specs, and the 50mm drivers along with built-in microphones offer just enough noise isolation without removing you too far from your surroundings. The cans themselves are made of comfy memory foam and will eventually be housed in metal and real leather in the project’s final form. Powering this little sonic and visual wunderkind is a 2000 mAh battery that should easily provide you with a full day of use – that is, if you’re only spending roughly 15 percent of your time using the display; any more than that and you start to sacrifice some battery life. After not even a week on Indiegogo, the ORA-X is already a third of the way to its “flexible” $150,000 goal, which makes it seem as though at the very least, people are still interested in an alternative to Google Glass’s take on augmented reality. If you happen to be one of those interested parties, the first 100 backers can snag their own pair for only $349; after that, the price for the ORA-X should go up to roughly $500 when (and if) they ship next year.
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