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5/7/2014
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Epson Smart Glasses Mean Business

Meet Epson's Moverio BT-200 smart glasses -- a new Google Glass rival that lacks elegance but promises work efficiency.

8 Gadgets For The High-Tech Home
8 Gadgets For The High-Tech Home
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Epson's Moverio BT-200 smart glasses lack the attempted elegance of Google Glass, a product already too close to the edge of the awkward spectrum.

But at $700, Epson's computerized spectacles are more affordable than Google's $1,500 head-hugging hardware. Perhaps more significantly, they're more likely to appeal to an enterprise audience because they're better suited for augmented reality applications.

The big difference between Epson's glasses and Google's is that Epson's features a large field of view, said Eric Mizufuka, product manager of Epson, in a demonstration at InformationWeek's San Francisco office.

The Moverio BT-200, now available through Epson.com and prelaunch.com, relies on two micro projectors to place digital imagery over real-world imagery. The glasses offer augmented reality, a mode of presentation that doesn't work particularly well on Google Glass, at least in its present form. The Glass screen is positioned in the top right-hand corner of the wearer's field of view rather than directly in front of the wearer.

[Attention, shoppers: Read Google Sends Shopping Alerts To Android Devices.]

"Glass requires you to glance up, which is more for notifications," said Mizufuka.

Augmented reality matters because it's an effective way to make digital information relevant to real-world work scenarios. Although an email could certainly inform an individual that a certain product is out of stock, an augmented reality system can present that information contextually, in real-time, when appropriate action can be taken.

Mizufuka demonstrated an application developed by IT consultancy Wipro that allows a consumer packaged goods salesperson to check retail shelves for proper product placement. A wearer of smart glasses can use the app to see which products on a store shelf conform with established placement guidelines and whether any products are missing or out of stock.

"Not only can it make workers more efficient and accurate, but it can confirm compliance as well," Mizufuka told us.

Beyond retail and wholesale supply chain tracking applications, Epson has been working with APX Labs and Metaio to develop surgical training and remote-field service support applications for its smart glasses.

APX Labs makes an enterprise application called Skylight that has been designed to use Moverio BT-200 capabilities. It can present augmented reality overlays, stream video, and detect motion for hands-free interaction.

Mizufuka demonstrated a Skylight application that presents dashboard information based on where the person wearing Epson's glasses is looking. The wearer could perform an action with a glance, such as triggering a video.

Augmented reality, as seen through Epson's glasses.
Augmented reality, as seen through Epson's glasses.

In a statement, Andrew Vaz, chief innovation officer at Deloitte Consulting, argues that organizations should investigate the potential of wearable technology and find ways to use it to enhance business processes.

Google appears to agree. Last month, it launched a program called Glass at Work to promote the development of business-oriented Glass applications.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Strategist
5/11/2014 | 2:50:04 PM
Re: Glass at Work
@Alison the consumer market is still a hard sell. I think it's good to focus on other areas. Epson is probably making the right move.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
5/10/2014 | 1:31:48 AM
Re: Glass at Work
for now it more hype of technology... until consumers started voting with they money... plus privacy problems... would love to hear Joe opinion... as per his legal mind...
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
5/8/2014 | 3:34:44 PM
Re: Glass at Work
I have always thought that workplace-type of applications would be the best use case for smart glasses, especially early on. I am still convinced of this, and Epson has experience with optical imaging technology.

You don't hear much about this particular company anymore, but they may be able to build out the right kind of technology needed for professional-style wearable applications.

This is where the growth will be for now - in the workplace. I think smart glasses for the time being are just too socially awkward for the mainstream right now. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
5/8/2014 | 10:25:54 AM
Re: Glass at Work
I've long thought smart glasses are most appropriate for vertical applications like healthcare; logistics; retail, and security. By partnering early with ISVs and integrators, Epson appears to be taking the right approach. Its price point doesn't hurt either. 
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
5/7/2014 | 2:44:31 PM
Re: Glass at Work
It's great to see another major player entering this field with a different angle, not that anything is wrong with Google's vision. It only confirms the merit of the original idea. This is a very positive development, and it can only speed up the process of this exciting new technology entering the mainstream and finding more great new applications.

 

 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
5/7/2014 | 2:10:33 PM
Re: Glass at Work
I think smart glasses and other wearables will turn "consumerization" on its head. Innovation and adoption will go in the opposite direction of smartphones -- from the enterprise to the consumer. Wearables solve specific problems for specific industries, whereas smartphones had broad consumer appeal. Moverio BT-200's ability to handle augmented reality overlays is a feature built for businesses of all sorts. Consumers are not ready for that stuff -- maybe someday they will be. But businesses can benefit from it now.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
5/7/2014 | 12:20:18 PM
Re: Glass at Work
The pricing is even more curious if there's any validity to reports that Glass costs about $80 in materials. Google insists its manufacturing cost is higher, but there certainly seems to be a lot of padding in there.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
5/7/2014 | 10:27:48 AM
Glass at Work
There are going to be a lot of business use cases for smart glasses. Think of repair and maintenance work, where a person can have both hands free and just glance up to look at a manual for assistance. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is experimenting with Glass use in emergencey rooms (just a different kind of repair work, I suppose). Interesting that this business version undercuts the consumer Glass version on price at this stage, whereas the whole consumerization of IT trend around smartphones went the other way.  
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