Little do some people realize, but Epson already had a pair of smart glasses. The Moverio BT-100 came out in 2011, were bulky,, and not intended for consumer use. They were tech-in-progress. Now, they’re back…and still tech-in-progress, although improved. With Google Glass out in the wild and Oculus Rift snagging headlines, Epson is readying the Moverio BT-200 Smart Glasses, going on sale in March for $699 and intended for everyday consumers. Or, should we say, early adopters, because it’s still hard to figure out who would buy one.
What does Epson’s smart glass solution have that others don’t? Good question. The lenses here are mostly transparent: the projected heads-up image comes into magnified angled sections in the middle of clear lens, but you can see weird lenses-within-lenses, like crazy bifocals.
The new glasses are 60 percent thinner than before, and even fit somewhat easily over my eyeglasses thanks to a flexible nosepiece. At least they rested comfortably, although it may not look like it from the photos. A handheld Android console with a touchpad powers the floating display, which is capable of 3D if the content supports it. I watched a streaming 3D YouTube video, for instance. Why? Because, well, CES, that’s why.
The Smart Glasses have a 960x540 resolution 16:9 display, which hovers with a 23-degree field of view. The glasses support H.264 video playback, work with Dolby Digital Plus to carry audio to connected headphones for surround sound. The wired Android 4.0 touchpad controller has Bluetooth 3.0, an SDHC card slot for up to 32GB of storage. Built-in Wi-Fi will also work for streaming video content, and with an extra bridge adapter they could be used to mirror HDMI-connected set-top boxes and other entertainment sources.
I was able to move my head around and target pop-up points of interest during a staged software demo, using a floating reticle. I also played a few virtual headset games that used head-tracking built into the BT-200 (accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetic compass) to look around and shoot creatures in the air, using the connected trackpad device to fine-tune and fire weapons. Another game, Sky Temple by Sean McCracken, had me wandering over a frozen landscape and falling off cliffs. These games were in 2D, but the head-moving element was reminiscent of Oculus Rift…if far less immersive. Still, the floating semi-transparent display did a very solid job of being visible while letting me still look at the world around me.
There are other applications: Evena Medical is creating a medical imaging app, but a lot of the rest of the demos at CES seem to be games, including a table-top fighting game from Namco-Bandai.
But, that’s not all Epson is announcing: there is also a line of Pulsense heart rate monitoring wristbands and watches, created in conjunction with parent company Seiko, arriving this summer. Both wristbands have a plastic feel, but use a green LED sensor under the band to offer continuous heart rate monitoring similar to what’s on the Basis and Adidas’ existing Mio-powered sports watch.
The Pulsense will be able to record 480 hours of heart-rate data before being synced with a phone or computer. Calorie-counting, pedometer functions, and zone-based heart rate training via LED indicators are all part of what the Pulsense aims to do. Heart rate monitoring is a new trend in wearables, one that’s popping up all over CES on a ton of fitness devices.
The PS-100, which is just a simple wristband with basic LED indicators, will cost $129, while the PS-500, which doubles as a watch, costs $199. Both work with both iOS and Android devices, and support third-party mobile apps, but who those partners will be, and how many, is the real question.