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Android eyewear offers virtual, augmented reality

Jan 10, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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Epson demonstrated Android-based Moverio BT-200 eyewear featuring a stereoscopic 3D VR display, a camera for augmented reality applications, and head tracking.

Epson unveiled its Epson Moverio BT-100 eyewear computer concept back in February of last year to rather unsparing reviews, but at CES it demonstrated a lighter new BT-200 model that moves from Android 2.2 to Android 4.0. It’s now available for pre-order for $700, with a limited quantity available for shipment in March. The device was a 2014 International CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards honoree in the Wearable Technologies category.



Epson’s Moverio BT-200 eyewear
(click images to enlarge)

The Moverio BT-200 runs Android 4.0 on a dual-core, 1GHz Cortex-A9 processor and, unlike the single-screen Google Glass, offers a binocular 960 x 540-pixel (qHD) display using a tiny LCD-based projection lens system and optical light guide located on each side of the glasses. The binocular optical system can project see-through overlays of digital content onto real-world views in the center of the field of view, enabling augmented reality applications.


BT-200 glasses and controller details
(click images to enlarge)

The stereoscopic, full-color virtual display offers a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 23-degree field of view. However, a 360-degree panoramic view “is possible through third-party software that takes advantage of the glasses’ head-tracking features,” says Epson. The head tracking is said to make use of a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetic compass to enhance gaming and hands-free navigation. The device is further equipped with a front-facing camera that can capture photos and video, as well as provide marker detection for augmented reality apps.

This second-gen Moverio targets both consumers and commercial applications, although we imagine the latter is a better fit, at least for now. Epson cites training, logistics, science, medicine, security, and education as potential applications, and says it is working with partners on potential vertical applications.

The eyewear computer is more immersive than Google Glass, providing a VR-like experience that a Jan. 7 TrustedReviews hands-on calls a “more mobile version of Oculus Rift.”

Consumers may balk at the eyewear, which is heavier and thicker than Google Glass, as well as the separate Android 4.0 handheld controller unit connected by a USB cable. This smartphone-like device has a textured touchpad where the screen should be, and offers WiFi and Bluetooth 3.0, a microSD slot, and additional motion sensors. A battery is included for up to six hours of life, and presumably the control unit also includes the processor.

Additional features include Dolby Digital Plus audio, and native support of MP4 with H.264 plus AAC. Options include a wireless mirroring adapter that enables streaming of HD video from content source devices with HDMI connectivity. A prescription lens insert is also available.

Epson has launched a developer program for the Moverio BT-200. Meanwhile, consumer and enterprise apps that were demonstrated this week at the Epson SmartWare Pavilion at CES include:

  • Namco Bandai Studios — A table-top virtual fighting game using augmented reality characters
  • Psyclops — A virtual reality, first-person shooter by Sean McCracken in which you defend your city from invading aliens
  • Sky Temple — A virtual reality, first-person adventure game by Sean McCracken in which you collect gems and avoid falling thousands of feet below
  • Scope AR — ScopeAssist, an in-view, augmented reality assistance app to simplify unfamiliar tasks. Visitors receive voice-driven guidance to complete connection of a 5.1 surround sound system
  • Quest-Com — Shooting game using augmented reality characters
  • APX Labs — Multiple demonstrations running on APX Skylight platform for enterprise smart glasses
  • CraneMorley — Augmented reality-based training and consumer marketing apps for the automotive industry
  • Evena Medical — Demonstration of the Eyes-OnGlasses point-of-care wearable medical imaging system which enables nurses to see “through” a patient’s skin to the vasculature beneath
  • Metaio — Multiple demonstrations running on Metaio’s platform, including an augmented reality-based app to maintain and repair an air conditioner

The Moverio BT-200 smart glasses will begin shipping in March for $700. Pre-orders are available on a pre-launch page. More information may be found at Epson’s Moverio BT-200 product page.
 

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