When Google were developing their ‘Glass’ augmented reality wearable technology, it seemed that these, and others like them were sure to sweep the world and become the new dominant device. It may not have panned out this way, yet Epson are determined to bring smartglasses back in from the cold and show everyone just how amazing they can be.
Go back just four years and this technology was released to huge fanfare and said to be the next big thing - some even went as far as predicting that it would eventually make phones obsolete.
It was all going so well, with plenty of intrigue and news coverage capturing the public imagination. That is until accounts turned negative – very quickly – and forced Google to shelve the project. While users themselves seemed to enjoy the technology, people in their vicinity did not appreciate it quite as much. Expostulations were made on the grounds that the devices may be recording without permission. Personal protests led to legal ones and on some occasions descended into aggressive or even violent confrontations.
Despite this, there remained a steadfast certainty among many that Google Glass and similar products still had fantastic potential. Google themselves have made it clear that they have not dropped the product, stating somewhat cryptically on the glass website: “the journey doesn’t end here”.
Of others who have tinkered with the possibilities the most notable would be Snap Inc. (of Snapchat fame). Aside from these – admittedly-not-that-smart – Smartglasses most companies seem to want to keep a low profile. I guess when you are a juggernaut like Google you can take a couple of blasts without having to break stride, but there are few that have the clout to follow them through that particular minefield.
That is not to say that everyone has mothballed it though, and some have managed to move smart eyeglasses in interesting ways.
Pop Epson’s Moverio BT-300’s on and you could be high above the treetops, piloting a drone in 1st person, or racing down virtual roads against friends from the safety of exercise bikes in the gym. Out in the real world cyclists can take turn-by-turn cues from the glasses and view map overlays complete with topography and real-time ride statistics. Of those who prefer to be indoors, cinemagoers could be using the BT-300s to read subtitles overlaid on their film of choice.
These are just examples of a handful of applications for the device, with many more slated to appear on the Moverio App Store.
It is easy to see why. With the features on offer from the glasses there is plenty of scope for development. They are able to boast being among the lightest smartglasses in the world, at a feather-light 69 grams, which is light enough to forget you wearing them. If that doesn’t work, the dual display Silicon Organic Light Emitting Diode (Si-OLED) 720p display will completely immerse users in the experience.
Users’ enjoyment is unlikely to be interrupted due to a lack of power. They benefit from 6 hours battery life. Also, making use of an Android OS makes them easy to use and accessible to everyone.
So, it is clear that AR glasses could not only have a viable future, but that a taste of that future is here today. Many have stuck their necks out, including Apple's CEO Tim Cook, to predict that AR has many more potential applications than VR. It certainly has the advantage of allowing users to interact with natural environments. The user is thus free to move, interact with, or - more crucially - avoid objects; and the resources and effort required to produce an all-immersive VR are far greater than an ‘overlay’ as required by augmented reality. It also has the potential for far more ‘serious’ application, such as their promise to aid visually impaired users in recognising objects.
There are sure to be many more developments in the not-too-distant future so please keep checking the Printware website for more updates.