Hands-on: Epson Moverio BT-200 Smart Glasses
As apart of my delayed CES coverage, last week I dove into the future and listed currently-available gadgets that I see as future mainstream products. Today, I’ll give you a little peek at one of those products, Epson’s Moverio BT-200 smart glasses.
When I heard that Epson, a company known for making projectors and printers, had smart glasses on display, I had to try them out. Not just because wearables are the most interesting thing to emerge from this year’s CES, but because it seems like such a change from projectors and printers. After all, most businesses and individuals need at least one of those products. But smart glasses? Not so much, right? But Epson believes this is the future, and they’re making sure they’re on the ground floor when this industry takes off.
Going into my hands-on with the Moverio BT-200 smart glaseses, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m completely new to smart glasses, as I would assume most of you reading this are. You’ve probably heard of Google Glass — maybe even seen an Explorer in the wild — but there’s a big difference between watching someone use something and actually using it yourself.
Unlike Google Glass, though, the Moverio BT-200 runs pure Android from a relatively bulky binocular display that’s attached to a touchpad controller. It was a bit bulkier than I initially expected, but this is only the second generation. The first — unveiled in 2011 — weighed over 200 grams, while this latest version is down to 88 grams.
Earlier in the day, I tried out the latest Oculus Rift prototype, so going into this, I naively expected to be fully immersed. What I got, however, was a projection that displays a fairly low-resolution (960×540, to be exact) interface. It looked small, and that caught me offguard at first. My immediate reaction was: “How am I going to read any text on this thing?”
Luckily, my demo didn’t involve text. I played a first-person shooter reminiscent of Metroid Prime, which used headtracking to look around a battlefield, and the touchpad controller for shooting. The experience was fun, but I couldn’t see myself playing this for more than a few minutes at a time.
Unbeknownst to the Epson rep walking me through the device’s features, I exited the game after those few minutes and checked around the homescreen of the device. I wanted to see how the device performed practical tasks, such as internet browsing. It opened the stock Android browser fairly quickly, and loaded a page that had been previously open. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell what the page was due to the size of the text. (And this was with my actual glasses on.)
Come to find out, the screen transparency was pretty low, and upon bringing it to 100 percent, everything changed. The previously unreadable text came into focus and the device began to grow on me. This did cause it to block most of my vision, but keep in mind that the device displays a standard Android interface, not a specially-designed interface for smart glasses. And that’s something that seems to be coming in the future, as well as something app developers can take advantage of.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how you’re going to walk around with an Android interface blocking your vision, you simply tap the right side of the glasses twice to hide the display. I don’t why, but I geeked out quite a bit about that simple gesture.
I’m not sure how to feel about Epson’s smart glasses overall just yet. They’re certainly incredible, but nowhere near ready for real world use. At CES, the company was predominantly showing enterprise apps, so perhaps they’re looking to take the product in a different direction.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this device, though, as it’s got real potential. Epson’s smart glasses team is also extremely passionate about the future of the technology. And to me, that sounds like the foundation of a successful product.