Yesterday I spent the day in Melbourne with Epson and what you may not know is that they make smart glasses. The Moverio BT-300 is the 3rd generation of their glasses and will ship later this year. Thanks to their partnership with the top Formula 1 team Mercedes, during a garage tour, I had a chance to experience the 2nd generation model, the BT-200.
Sitting down in the back of the garage we were asked to put on the glasses and headphones. As we watched the mechanics go to work on the stunning W07 of Roseberg and Hamilton just a couple of metres in front of us, the presentation began. An engineer stood behind us, driving things from a tablet. Before your eyes emerges a screen, what’s probably the equivalent of a 50-55″ screen sitting at 4 metres away and unlike Google glass, this is presented to both eyes as a seemless video.
As the engineer commentated the visuals that augmented our vision, I noticed the opacity and brightness was set almost perfectly, allowing you to look through it, into the real world if you choose, or if you focus on it, watch the contents of the video. The video presentation walked us through the attributes of the cars, how they make power from the motor, the turbos and battery. This 3D animation allowed a detailed explanation of the internal workings of the multi-million dollar vehicles before our eyes, something you could never see thanks to the insanely complicated configuration that is a modern Formula 1 powertrain.
Mercedes are clearly experimenting with this technology and it really feels like just the start. While the glasses do augment what you see, right now its not leveraging the item you’re currently looking at, in the future it should. If I look at the wheels, it should do object recognition and provide context-sensitive information, but that said, they are the only garage that’s doing anything like AR/VR.
Enough about the old model, now for the future, yesterday Epson announced the 3rd generation of its Moverio smartglasses for Augmented Reality. The Moverio BT-300 features Epson’s own cutting edge silicon-based OLED (organic light emitting diode) digital display technology, enabling the device to be the lightest see-through binocular smartglasses on the market, and setting the new standard for augmented reality smart eyewear. As with all good iterations, there are improvements from what was learnt from previous models and the Moverio BT-300 will be around 20% lighter than its predecessor, the BT-200.
Epson’s vision for these augmented glasses is incredibly vast, but where Google Glass failed, these may succeed. The reason is very simple, Epson seems to understand their intended audience far better than Google ever did. The intention is that these will find their biggest success in commercial applications.
One example of that is the use of the BT-300 to help fly drones, allowing the video feed from the camera drones to be fed to the operator, while still allowing them to see the outside world. Epson has already had local success with the previous BT-200 model, with widespread use in some of Australia’s top education and research organisations including the CSIRO, the University of Western Sydney, Griffith University, Monash University’s Immersive Visualisation Platform and CAVE2 and Monash University’s Faculty of Information Technology.
These definitely feel like they’re built with function as the primary goal and form somewhere after. While refinements and improvements are coming with the Moverio BT-300, Epson aren’t trying to put these on the fashion catwalk.
The glasses are driven by a control unit, about 3/4 the size of your phone. Built with a quad core Intel Atom processor and running Android OS 5.1, the BT-300 has significantly increased power to enable it to process 3D heavy content, and features an impressive battery life, up to 6hrs.
Seeing and making sense of the user’s environment through a 5-mega-pixel front-facing HD camera and other sensors, the smartglasses render content based on what is seen. As on previous models, and cautious of privacy standards, the device features an LED to indicate when the camera is recording. This is another demonstration of Epson learning from the failures of Google Glass.. making a distinct effort to avoid the unwanted public use in a places like bars and being labelled “a glasshole”.
Mr. Atsunari Tsuda, general manager responsible for Moverio said,
“Moverio is distinct from other smartglasses on the market where form often supersedes function, to the detriment of the product’s usability. Every design decision we make is driven by consideration for the product’s ultimate usage scenarios and our Si-OLED technology opens a new world for us in binocular see-through smart eyewear development.
With OLED we can take advantage of reductions in power usage and weight, and improvements in response times, HD resolution, brightness and contrast. By choosing silicon rather than glass for our base wafer we achieve an even more high-density pixel display.”
OS – Android 5.1
CPU – Intel Atom 5 1.44GHz Quad Core
Format – Silicon (Si) OLED
Resolution – HD (1280 x 720)
Contrast – 100,000: 1 and above
Resolution – 5 mega pixel
Sensors – GPS/ magnetic/ accelerometer/ gyro
WiFi, 11a/ b/ g/ n/ ac (5 GHz)
Bluetooth – Bluetooth Smart Ready
User interface – Trackpad and key
Battery time – Approx. 6 hours (when replaying moving images)
Even the current F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton had a chance to try out the glasses.
— Epson UK (@EpsonUK) February 25, 2016