DIY smart glasses light the way for walking directions
If the smart specs already on the market aren't enough to get you excited, why not make your own? That's exactly what electrical engineer and product designer Sam March has done, with the help of a CNC router and some app coding. The device is a follow-up to the smartwatch he made last year.
Built from scratch, the smart glasses link to a phone app to give the wearer walking directions, with LED lights close to the eyes pointing the way to go. While they're unlikely to transform the product category, it's an impressive DIY project – and March has posted full instructions online if you want to try making your own.
You'll need a pretty varied set of skills to pull it off. The bamboo frames for the glasses were designed in Fusion360 and CNC machined, before being stained and fitted together with glue. Next, the lenses were cut out of dark gray tinted acrylic, following the same software and hardware workflow, before a tint film was added.
Next, March coded an iPhone app using the Swift language, borrowing the phone's GPS location and mapping capabilities to work out the walking route from one spot to another. This app communicates with a custom-made circuit board fitted to the frames of the glasses to light up the LEDs when required.
The finished "smarchGlasses" wearable flashes a blue light next to the left or right eye to indicate a turn, with a green light displayed when the final destination has been reached. Everything is powered with an embedded, rechargeable lithium-ion coin cell battery.
"At the end of the summer, I was walking around town soaking in the sun, while trying to avoid people (because, well, pandemic)," writes March, explaining how the project first began to take shape. "As I typed in my next destination to my phone and started following the map, I realized I wasn't really enjoying the sights or the world around me. I was hyper-focused on my phone screen and watching myself on the map, making sure I didn't miss a turn.
"While staring at the little blue dot, Ferris Bueller, in all his infinite wisdom, spoke up in my head. 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.' It was in that moment, I decided that I wanted to make some smart sunglasses that gave me turn-by-turn directions!"
While commercial products such as Google Glass have failed to take off in a significant way so far, March hits upon one of the potential key uses for smart specs: hands-free navigation and a way of escaping the pull of the smartphone screen.
Expect more mass market products in the future. Apple and Facebook are two of the companies rumored to be working on their own smart specs at the moment, with a wide variety of functionality and augmented reality features apparently in the pipeline. In the meantime, you might want to try making your own.