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With the general release of Google Glass still several months away, Tokyo-based electronics maker Thanko is already offering gadget lovers something that shares one function with Google’s wearable computer for a fraction of the price.

On April 11 Thanko released its mita manma megane, or “just what you see glasses” video camera, designed like a pair of eyeglasses.

A miniature camera is built into the temple portion of the frame. To operate the camera, users first pres and hold a button on the inner face of the left earpiece, until a blinking green light indicates the camera is in standby mode. One more tap of the button starts the recording process. The camera’s quiet operation makes it a little hard to tell if it’s recording, but thankfully in recording mode the blinking light turns off, letting you know you’re capturing video while also sparing you from looking like a festive Christmas decoration to those around you.

▼ The camera

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▼ The activation button

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Videos can be saved on a micro SD card (sold separately), which also plugs into the temple section of the frame. The camera can be recharged with a USB cable, with a battery life of three hours in standby mode or 30-40 minutes of continual recording.

▼ SD slot

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▼ Recharging

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The product is actually Thanko’s second wearable camera. Last year it began selling a camera that mounts on the ear, like a set of headphones. Despite winning plenty of fans, Thanko felt there was still room for improvement. “No matter what you did, you always ended up with a bit of your cheek in the picture. With our new glasses-style design, the images you record are closer to what you see with your own eyes,” say promotional materials for the new product.

The glasses are a relatively light 60 grams (2.1 ounces), with a unisex, unobtrusive design that won’t attract unwanted attention. Since they leave both of the user’s hands free, Thanko says that removing the need to stare at a tiny monitor lets the user stay more connected to his or her surroundings, which is a definite plus when recording special family moments.

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The company’s website also recommends using the glasses when reading, although the advantage to recording a video of a still page of text, then referring back to the video instead of just opening up the book again, is lost on us. The 40-minute battery life also limits their usefulness for suspicious wives and girlfriends who would want to stick the glasses on their significant other and record his line of sight to see if he’s spending all day at the office checking out the interns…

The glasses are available on Thanko’s website at a price of 8,980 yen (US$92). The initial inventory sold out in less than 10 days, so customers should expect a bit of a waiting period, although thankfully not as long as for Google Glass.

▼ The camera in action

Sources: Nikkei Trendy, Thanko
Images: Thanko