LAS VEGAS — The workers in Epson’s demo room at the 2014 International CES are slowly, painstakingly hanging a huge sheet of glass from a metal scaffolding erected in the center of the room.
Why so big? Because that’s how much space Epson requires to demonstrate the UI for its smart glasses.
Gone are the minimalist cards and three-option menus. Here, you have 3D gaming, immersive mapping, and a quarter-HD screen — all thanks to two-count-’em-two full-size lenses per unit.
Yeah, you’ll look like a Revenge of the Nerds extra. But this is no developer prototype. The consumer-ready Epson Moverio is the second generation of the company’s augmented reality glasses. It’s got a $700 price tag and enough polish to justify the expense.
“Versus Google Glass, you get a much larger display,” said Eric Mizufuka, Epson’s Moverio product manager, at one of the industry’s largest trade events. “And we can do 3D. It’s a completely different UI.”
The Android-powered device comes with a cord-bound controller that functions as a trigger/mouse/battery. The glasses are surprisingly lightweight, given their size, and the 960-by-540 screen is front and center in my field of vision.
The first thing I get to do is shoot alien spacecraft out of the nebulous reaches of space (the game is Psyclops, originally developed for Google Glass but infinitely tricked out for Moverio). I immediately blow a few green and yellow ships to smithereens. It feels good. Powerful. Fun.
Then I realize I’ve been waving my head around and chasing the aliens nose-first. I feel like a huge dork. But as I look around the room to see who gives a crap (no one did), I realize it’s much easier to see people versus Glass.
Glassholes, man, they run around bumping into people and stepping in dog crap because their eyeballs are constantly wandering up, up, and away.
The front-and-center aspect of Moverio helps out with that a lot. No longer are people and dog turds merely in the periphery of your very important Twitter feed.
That could be useful for Epson’s pitch to get Moverio tech into the automotive world. “We’ve had interest from most of the major auto makers, and it’s being explored by some developers,” said Mizufuka.
But the always-on use case isn’t really what Epson is after, anyhow. They want to do video and entertainment, streaming movies from your dumb old phone to your shiny new glasses. They want to give you games to play.
And, oh, yeah, they want to be first to turn the enterprise out on smart glasses. Already, Mizufuka revealed, a Fortune 10 company has placed a significant order to pilot the devices. Epson thinks these glasses, far more than Google Glass, will be highly useful for “deskless workers,” as the PM calls them.
As for apps, Epson’s coming up with an app marketplace for Moverio-specific apps, but developers can port any Android app to Moverio.
Last point in its favor: There’s just no ring at all to “Moveriohole.”
Specs below for the specs fiends.
We’ll have lots more coming from the show, so stay tuned to our CES hub for more news, gadgets, and interviews.
From the one-pager:
• Bright, transparent display with 960-by-540 pixel (qHD) resolution
• Sensors (gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetic compass) enable head-motion-tracking for gaming and hands-free navigation
• A front-facing camera enables image and video capture as well as marker detection for AR apps that give users relevant information related to the real-world
• A handheld controller unit powered by Android 4.0 provides a robust open-source development environment and gives users access to a growing selection of augmented reality apps
• Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity offers a wireless way to enjoy streaming video content while an optional wireless mirroring adapter enables streaming of high-definition video from content source devices with HDMI connectivity such as DVD players, set-top boxes and more
• Native support of MP4 with H.264 plus AAC encoding enables high-definition video playback
• Bluetooth 3.0 support allows wireless connectivity to headsets, speakers, keyboards and other peripherals
• A MicroSDHC card slot supports up to 32GB of external memory, allowing users to view and enjoy personal content like photos, videos and music even when wireless access is unavailable
• Dolby Digital Plus produces a full-body surround sound experience to complement the rich visual experience