While North America's largest search engine giant is busily fine-tuning its wearable tech called Google Glass for a 4Q13 release, China's most popular search engine Baidu is supposedly working on a similar gadget of its own called the Baidu Eye. Unnamed sources told Sina.com that Baidu has been testing a prototype for several years.
According to the sources, Baidu Eye is very similar to Google Glass, sporting an LCD display, voice-controlled image recognition and bone-based audio transmission. Recorded gestures allow the user to take and send photos, and voice control is used in tasks such as making phone calls and searching the Internet.
Sources also state that Baidu is developing Eye by using an open-source platform so that developers can design applications without restrictions. The company is reportedly teaming up with Foxconn to manufacture the wearable tech on the Chinese mainland. Google will be using Foxconn's U.S.-based plant to produce the initial wave of Glass units.
Does all this sound way too familiar? It should. Reports of Baidu Eye are actually based on an April Fools' joke that has spun out of control. Yet Baidu claims that underneath all that deception of a Google Glass competitor is a kernel of truth that seemingly nukes any chance of waving off Baidu Eye talk as a mere prank.
"There is an internal project we are working on, a small internal test, but we’re not even certain it will ever be brought to market," said Baidu spokesperson Kaiser Kuo. "It’s all about visual search on images and voice command. These have been a part of science fiction since the Fifties but now they’re becoming reality."
Like Google Glass, Baidu's prototype is based on an ocular interface and built with LEDs. But despite reports, there are no hardware vendors selected for the device – no Foxconn, no Qualcomm, no anything. Or so Kuo claims.
"I have not been invited to play with it," Kuo said. "We may go with it, but we may not, but it certainly fits with what we have been doing."
Baidu currently commands around 70 percent of the search market in China but faces stiff competition from upstarts like Qihoo. For Baidu, wearable tech tuned to its services would be a project not worth passing up given that we're now entering into an age of wearable computing. Baidu Eye would not only help sustain Baidu's current market share; it would help the Chinese search engine company bolster its presence in other territories like Africa.