Pseudonymous maker and chiptune DJ "User1539" has been working on wearables with a difference: all the hardware is integrated into oversized headphones, including the battery and a Raspberry Pi single-board computer.
"I started this project thinking 'I'll make a wearable computer I actually want to wear around all day,'" User1539 explains of an earlier generation of the unusual wearable family. "The monocle[,] salvaged from an old pair of video glasses[,] actually folds up along the side, and they can be used as regular headphones. But as they got bigger and more bulky it just looked too much like a Halloween costume, and I just leaned into it again."
The oversized 3D-printed headphone shell hides a Raspberry Pi Zero single-board computer, an Adafruit PowerBoost board linked to a battery, and speakers for use as actual headphones — plus a link to the flip-down monocle. They're not just for show, either: The Raspberry Pi runs a copy of Retropie and emulates a Nintendo Game Boy running LSDJ for chip-tune composition and playback.
Since the unveiling of the "Halloween costume" variant, User1539 has been working on something a little more subtle. "I like the last pair of headphone computers a lot," the maker explains, "but they aren't 'every day' headphones. So, before I was even finished with those, I started a re-design based around the idea of being more comfortable, and less crazy looking."
The housing may be more subtle, but the overall hardware is largely unchanged: There's a Raspberry Pi Zero single-board computer, another salvaged low-resolution flip-down monocle display, though a larger battery offering an expected four to six hours of active use. It also offers the option for larger displays: An integrated 5.8GHz video transmitter can send the signal out to an optional pair of goggles and a 5" display.
"I've been obsessed with wearable computers since I was playing Cyberpunk 2020 as a kid, and followed the MIT wearable projects through college," User1539 explains. "Then one day I realized I could build all that stuff in my basement, for less than a nice meal out. So, why not? The first thing I made was built into a holster, and it was cool but not something I'd wear around. I liked using it, but putting it on was a hassle.
"Then I came up with the idea of making something like the Cybernaut MAIV and realized I wouldn't need the external processor at all, I could fit it all into a unit that attached to my studio headphones. Since then I've made four sets of headphones, and I'm working on a fifth, and my wife, and some others who've worked in my makerspace with me have made them."