Leonard Da Vinci, the 15th-century Renaissance man, is credited with envisioning or outright inventing hundreds of modern-day devices; facsimiles of everything from a machine gun to parachutes and even today's helicopter can be found in his detailed drawings.
The schematics and notes he left behind are a treasure trove for researchers, including Dr. Burt Wilde. The University of Illinois researcher says he’s discovered evidence that the first design for something very much like Google Glass was created by the master himself.
“The drawing is rudimentary, but the text and notation are unmistakable,” said Wilde in a phone interview.
The 29-year-old nuclear physicist has been poring over Da Vinci’s work for the better part of three years, searching not for Google Glass, but for some fresh ideas on cold fusion.
“It’s not that I think Da Vinci imagined nuclear power –- although, I guess he could have –- but he did have unique ways of thinking about everyday problems," he said. "I believe current research in the area has stagnated.”
Wilde never did find his fusion inspiration. However, while examining Da Vinci's drawings at Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a library in Milan that houses the world’s largest collection of Da Vinci's works, Wilde noticed something odd in one particularly tattered corner.
“The drawing [see above] was smaller than others around it and I had, at first, a hard time deciphering the notes, but there was something almost familiar in there,” recalled Wilde.
What he found was a drawing of a man’s head with some sort of eyewear on it. The bar around the head was relatively thin and started behind one ear, wrapped around the face and looked like it continued over the other ear. As depicted in the drawing, it was supported on the bridge of the nose by two rather painful-looking pins. Attached to one side of the bar, near the eye closest to the viewer in the drawing, was a small box and what almost looked like a monocle.
“In that lens, Da Vinci had drawn another image. It was hard to make out, but it looked like another scene,” said Wilde.
He told Mashable the notes describe the eyewear as “Occhiovita Immagine,” which roughly translates to "Eye Life Picture." The notes go on to describe the experience of wearing the Occhiovitas, as Wilde has taken to calling them. Man would see his life and another life or activity on top of that life.
"Da Vinci did not use the word 'activity," said Wilde. "The words were really something like ‘importante testo,’ which means ‘important text.’ The astounding thing is that Da Vinci actually imagined this ‘text’ on top of your life. Just like Google Glass!”
Wilde spent weeks examining additional Da Vinci drawing pages, but found no further reference to Occhiovitas. Scientists, though, have since verified the authenticity of this “Google Glass” drawing section as an original Da Vinci work. (The full image is below.)
“I simply cannot believe no one noticed this before. Maybe it’s because Google Glass didn’t exist a few years ago and no one would have paid attention to something that, at first glance, might have looked like a simple pair of glasses," said Wilde. "I can’t imagine that would be an amazing find."
Google, in the meantime, has been mum on the topic. Mashable contacted Google repeatedly, but has yet to receive a comment.
Whatever the response, it will be hard to refute the facts. Da Vinci’s drawings are real, and the master conjured up images of wearable technology like Google Glass centuries before Google co-founder and chief Google Glass proponent Sergey Brin was even born.
Bonus: Google Glasses on Famous Faces
Topics: Dev & Design, Hot Story, Tech