Chinese search giant Baidu has confirmed rumors that it is developing a Google Glass like wearable technology product that is initially code-named ‘Baidu Eye’, but has stressed that no consumer launch is planned as yet.
Numerous Chinese media — summarized by Tech In Asia — this week reported that Baidu is making a foray into wearable computing. Now Kaiser Kuo, Baidu Director of International Communications, has confirmed that a prototype device is in development, however, its public release is no foregone conclusion.
“It is true that we are working on something, but it is not necessarily for release in the market,” Kuo told TNW by phone.
Kuo said that the device is “one of many internal experiments” that Baidu — which enjoys a dominant 70 percent-plus share of China’s domestic search market — is experimenting with and, though Google is moving along with its plans to introduce Google Glass to consumers, there is no guarantee that Baidu Eye will also become a product. As such, the company says it has no timeline or pricing details to reveal.
The device, which is an “ocular wearable interface” like Google Glass which used sound and visual inputs, could be used for a number of things, according to Kuo. He suggested that the wearer could take a photo of items that they see on the street or in shops, to learn more about them.
“Baidu understands that text is not always the best way to search,” he said, pointing out that vision, sound and other sense are more natural. That emphasis on search and information, is somewhat different to Google, which is making its Google+ social network a key part of its wearable computing experience.
While many may put two and two together and assume that Baidu’s efforts are in response to Google Glass, Kuo says that the company has been working on wearable technology for a number of years. He says it decided to go public after details of the prototype were revealed in an April Fools Day prank, which, unlike japes from Google and others, was actually based on a truth.
That said, Kuo dismisses some of the precise details which Chinese media reported, which included the suggestion that Qualcomm was involved in the production of the specs.
The product appears to have been well-guarded within Baidu, as Kuo admits that he and many other staffers were unaware of its existence until it showed up in initial reports, and have — most importantly — yet to take it for a spin. That’s in contrast to Google Glass, which had been worn in public by many Googlers, including co-founder Sergey Brin during a recent NYC subway ride.
Baidu has gone to great trouble to stress that its Eye product is still in development, but, given the lust with which China’s billion-plus population has turned to smartphones and tablets (becoming the world’s largest market for the former), Baidu smart glasses could be hugely lucrative — particularly given Google’s persona non grata status.
With Google Glass launching this year, it will be interesting to see if other companies feel pressured enough to go public with their own (competing) products.
Baidu is not releasing photos, so for now we have to make do with this small and rather unclear image that Sina Tech published.
Headline image via LIU JIN/Getty