Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality. They're rather popular words in the tech world these days.
Actually, they’ve been pretty popular for awhile. It’s just that the technology hasn’t always been on par with the big ideas behind making such things, well, real. But recently, that struggle has kind of been turned on its head. The technology is growing by leaps and bounds. But the ideas – the really good ideas – are not coming as fast as most of us would like. Sure, there’s lots of okay ideas out there with lots of buzz, but not all of them pan out or are practically implemented. We’ve seen Google Glass work toward using the tech to enhance the world socially. The Oculus Rift is amazing at dropping you into an immersive virtual gaming world. And there are others out there, coming from companies both big and small, filling out a variety of cultural niches and trying to find the killer app that will make their device the one to own before anyone else’s.
So when we sat down with Epson and they showed us the Moverio BT-100, we wondered what set them apart from the other devices and their manufacturers. For a company that’s primarily known for creating and selling printers, scanners, and projectors, what were their plans for setting themselves apart in the virtual/augmented reality glasses market? Their answer, surprisingly, was that their glasses, as they are now, might not be for everybody. Yet. Who uses it and how they use it all comes down to developers using the dev kits to create something revolutionary.
Where Google attempts to connect people with each other and the world around them with a constantly streaming overlay of information in the corner of their eyeline and Oculus VR wants to add a new dimension to gaming, Epson is seeking to make a name for themselves in the commercial tech world. While the Moverio BT-100 does have Android installed and will let you play Angry Birds and watch Netflix movies whenever you want, it has more practical aspirations at the moment. Eric Mizufuka, Product Manager, New Markets at Epson, explained it to us like this…
“People always ask us ‘how do you compare to Oculus or Google Glass?’ We don’t see ourselves as competing directly. We see the displays splitting out into binocular and monocular on one axis and transparent and non-transparent along the other axis. The Moverio is unique in that if falls into the transparent and binocular quadrant. Some of our advantages in that quadrant is the ability to render 3D objects, because our image is centered in your field of view, not off to the side or the corner of your vision, like the other transparent glasses. Google Glass is in the top right. Recon is in the bottom right. We’re directly in the center. This allows us to do true augmented reality.”
“In the monocular area, we see them targeting consumers with an always on, unobtrusive type of usage. For Oculus, which falls in to binocular and non-transparent, it’s all about gaming. And at least in the very near term, where we see the killer app coming from for Moverio, is from the commercial markets: logistics, medical, service, and support.”
In the demo video below, Eric, along with Scott Montgomerie from Scope Technologies in the first segment, shows us the practical applications for their technology. Whether it comes to training new hires in an industrial setting on how to take apart and rebuild machinery or performing search and rescue operations after a disaster, allowing wearers to go from daylight environments and seeing clearly into dark indoor environments without hesitation, the Moverio BT-100 offers up a myriad of potential uses for those willing to take on the challenge of creating the next killer app.
When I tried the Moverio BT-100 on, it took a little getting used to, but once it was turned on, the picture and its functions performed smoothly. Of course, with any emerging piece of technology, we’re looking at the early models with rough edges and 3D printed accessories cobbled together for demonstration purposes, but the proof of concept is there. I (and they) expect the size, style, format, and functionality of the glasses to change considerably as time goes on. Compared to where they’re headed, we’re in the flip phone era of this technology… and it already looks amazing! I can already see search and rescue, medical, or industrial factory workers putting these on as a part of their daily jobs as the technology is fine tuned in both the hardware and the software that runs it.