It was in January 2011 when Epson launched Moverio BT-100, its first generation smart glass. However, back then, it was too clunky and people mostly ignored it. Epson positioned the BT-100 as a portable movie theater. No matter where you are, you can watch your favorite movie as if you are watching it on your big screen. Its size and weight, however, made users feel uncomfortable, especially after long use. It also failed when it comes to keeping the user aware of his or her surroundings. While you can see through the glass even when you are watching a movie, it was still difficult to see much of what’s beyond the glasses much less hold a conversation with another person.
The Moverio BT-100 was supposed to be able to play back 3D videos, but the execution was botched by Epson, so it was difficult to use the 3D feature. Plus, it only played MPEG 4 files, and you cannot download any codecs to play other file formats like AVI. As such, Moverio BT-100 remained more of a concept device than a popular consumer tech. Two years later, Google Glass happened and it opened more people to the idea of wearable tech over the eyes and on the head.
Now, the Moverio BT-200 makes use of the same technology as BT-100, projecting the images into your field of vision. It is binocular in that the device makes use of the two lenses to create the image. Google Glass, on the other hand, makes use of only one display area.
Moverio BT-200 projects images with a resolution of 960 pixels by 540 pixels, or a quarter-high definition. QHD is common for smartphone displays in 2011, but this is still better than the 640 pixels by 360 pixels that Google Glass has for its display. It is similar to the resolution on the previous BT-100. Epson Moverio BT-200 also has a touchpad that runs on Android.
Much better than Moverio BT-100 – WAY BETTER!
Epson’s new glasses are equipped with a variety of sensors. It has a magnetic compass, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, among others, that enable it to track head motion and use it as an input signal. On top of the sensors, it also has a nine-axis motion tracker. Moreover, the included headset is now capable of Dolby Digital surround sound. The Moverio BT-200 has a front facing camera, as well as a microSD card slot. It also supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
What’s more, it is smaller and 60% lighter than the BT-100. This means that the discomfort you get from the BT-100 is significantly lessened and addressed in this version. You could expect the Moverio BT-200 not to fall off your nose, not only because of its lighter weight, but also because of the special nose piece that can keep the glass firmly on the bridge of your nose. This nose piece could also rest on top of your old eyeglasses.
Further, BT-200 has Miracast, which allows you to mirror your glass and your smartphone. It also means that you will be able to get video from your TV, set-top boxes, DVD players and other Miracast devices.
One of the things that divide people about the Moverio BT-200 is the touchpad. The touchpad is an input device that is connected to your glasses and it allows you to have a full version of the Android OS running on your glass. You could download apps and use the touchpad to navigate your way through the screens, and launch apps or click links – very much like what you can do with an Android phone without a touchscreen.
However, the touchpad also presents a minus point for Moverio BT-200 as it means that you would need to have a wire running from the glass to your hands or pockets, depending on where you keep your touchpad.
Although Epson has been saying that the Moverio BT-200 would be geared for the enterprise, it does have some games that are currently being developed for it. So far, Namco Bandai is said to be one of the developers in line. This could also be a sign that the Moverio BT-200 has the support of a strong developer community. And it does seem that this is the case because Sean McCracken, the developer of Google Glass game Psyclops, is also working on a Moverio version. On top of that, McCracken is also working on another game called Sky Temple.
Another bigwig developer that Epson has on its side is Metaio, which leads the augmented reality market. They’re already on board.
Metaio provides augmented reality technology for Moverio BT-200. This gives rise to a variety of applications. For example, you can use the glasses to make computer repair a breeze. The glasses can help you figure out which components to unscrew, where you can locate it and how to put it back, among other things. Check out how Metaio is making use of AR on Moverio BT-200 to help a technician repair a Mitsubishi air conditioner. You can view the video here.
As mentioned before, the touchpad is a potential disadvantage. Also, because there are two displays to work with, you need to make sure that you are wearing the Epson Moverio BT-200 properly. If the glasses are somewhat off, the two images look like two separate images instead of just one.
Plus, even though it is an Android-powered device, you will still need to make sure that there is enough content for it. The apps that are currently available on the Play Store might not be suitable for use with the Moverio BT-200. But with a great developer community behind it, then this just might not be a problem.
Also, the Moverio BT-200 functions more like your video game console rather than a smartwatch. You do not need to wear it every minute of every day much like you do not need to hold your Xbox controller when you are not playing. And because BT-200 is for specific uses only, you might even not experience the discomfort.
Going against Google?
As you can see, the Epson Moverio BT-200 begs to be compared to Google Glasses. On top of the differences and similarities, there is the price tag. Will people bite the lower £400 price tag or will they pay more to get a Google device instead? That remains to be seen and we will be excited to see what happens in March 2014 when the Moverio BT-200 finally goes on sale.