E3 2012: Hands On with Epson’s Moverio Android Glasses (video)

by Reads (3,354)

Like any major trade show, E3 attracts a lot of edge case products that sort of fit in and sort of don’t. Off in a little corner of the show floor, I found an Epson booth demoing the company’s all new smart glasses. These 3D goggles let you see the world around you while taking advantage of Android’s diverse capabilities.

Officially titled the Epson Moverio BT-100 Android Powered Interactive Display, the Moverio’s claim to fame comes from the fact that you can still see the world around you when you’re using them. Most video glasses or wearable computers block your vision, like the impressive Sony 3D OLED goggles. 

The way Epson is able to accomplish this is through the use of micro-projectors built into the frame. You can see that the parts that fit upon your ears are a little thick, and it’s here where the projectors are stored. Projecting their image onto the Seiko glass lenses, the projectors can up the brightness (to block out more of the background) or back it down (to increase the see-through-ability).

Where there isn’t an active image on the glasses, you can easily see through the glass. When something is actively being projected, the middle (where the “screen” is) is blocked out. Epson was able to make the glasses showcase 3D content, since each eye is physically distinct from the other; it was little extra work to set the projectors up to simultaneously broadcast slightly different images.

Powering the glasses is an Android-powered handheld device; it’s about the size of a deck of playing cards. On this device you can find a few navigation buttons, brightness and power settings, as well as a trackpad. Epson chose a trackpad because it’s familiar to anyone who uses a laptop, and because you can easily use it without having to look at what your hands are doing.

A mouse cursor appears on the screen to let you choose from a suite of installed applications. Regrettably, this device has yet to receive the all-important Google certifications that grant access to Google Maps, GMail, the Play Store (Android Market), etc. As a result, Epson bundles the Moverio with Amazon’s Android App Store, so users won’t need to result to sideloading apps from a computer.

The interface itself is basic Android 2.2 / Froyo, replete with grey and green battery and status bars, and a small Epson launcher in the lower left. By and large, it keeps itself out of your way.

Inside of the handheld device is a dual-core ARM CPU – what make and model, the Epson rep wouldn’t admit. I can say that it’s probably a bit underpowered, or else Epson hasn’t done a whole lot to optimize the codebase, since the demo videos they had on the BT-100 stutttered a fair bit.

Epson said that the BT-100 isn’t really directed at consumers. It’s $699.99 price point (given its looks and performance) certainly seems to reflect that. Really, it’s designed to get developers excited at the possibilities. Like Google’s own Project Glass, the Epson Moverio has the potential for talented software designers to really make some incredible applications. Regrettably, Epson didn’t show off anything really groundbreadking, such as an augmented reality title; they relied instead on the entertainment and movies side of things.

A version two of the product, according to Epson, should be much less bulky and come out at a lower price point. It’s then that Epson really plans to market the device to consumers.

Each screen is currently capable of projecting at 960×540, also known as qHD, or quarter-HD resolution. The LED light sources mean that the projector lamps should outlast the useable life of the device. A 2530mAh battery gives an Epson-estimated 5.8 hours of battery life – not too bad, all things considered. 

The 5.82oz glasses support native MPEG4 and H.264 video, as well as AAC and MP3 audio. Adobe Flash (version 11) is also installed.

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