China's Baidu shows off alternative to Google Glass, without optical display

BaiduEye can let users make hands-free searches by scanning objects

The BaiduEye prototype.

The BaiduEye prototype.

Chinese search engine Baidu is offering its own answer to Google Glass, but the headmounted device, which can visually scan and identify objects, comes without an optical display to extend battery life.

Called BaiduEye, the product is still in development, but the company on Wednesday showed off several prototypes during its annual technology conference.

Unlike Google's own smart glasses product, BaiduEye relies on an ear piece attached to the left side, instead of an optical display, to feed information back to the user. A camera attached to the other side is designed to snap pictures, and recognize objects that enter into its sight.

With the device, users can retrieve more information about objects they wish to scan. For example, a user wanting to know the vendor and price of a purse could use BaiduEye to scan the product, and hear the related details. More in-depth information can be displayed on the user's smartphone.

Baidu hopes the device will provide a useful hands-free alternative for searching for information. No pricing or release date was given, but the company is working with several hardware vendors to commercialize the device.

Prior to its unveiling, Baidu's CEO Robin Li stated on Wednesday that he expects voice and picture-based searches will exceed online text-based queries in five years. Already, some Chinese users make as many as 500 voice-based searches per day, he added.

In designing BaiduEye, the company did away with the optical display to help extend it's battery life, which can last for 2 hours. The device is designed to cater to the education and shopping sectors. In one example, Baidu said clothing shop workers could wear one, and use it to identify customers to pull up information on past purchases they've made.

Baidu is China's largest search engine, and is using the technology of its own data analytics to feed information to the device. Besides BaiduEye, the company is also preparing other hardware, including a pair of smart chopsticks.

Although the product is still in development, the chopsticks can be used to scan the quality of food and water. The battery-powered chopsticks are fitted with sensors, which can tell the acidity of water or if a meal has been made with recycled cooking oil.

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