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The Past, Present, And Future Of VR And AR: The Pioneers Speak

Epson Moverio

You may know Epson for its printers and projectors, but the company has been hard at work on Moverio, its AR technology, for the past couple of  years, first demonstrating the glasses at CES. These are binocular glasses, with a display resolution of 960x540, or QHD. Moverio can broadcast 3D content in your field of view (23 degrees). There is a front-facing VGA camera, made more as an image sensor to conserve battery life and keep the unit light. The glasses connect to a control unit that powers the displays. The control unit runs Android 4.0 (ICS), supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, includes a touchpad and a micro SD slot, and gets up to six hours in an always-on use case. The glasses include a gyro that polls at 60 FPS, a GPS, and there's an IMU sensor in the control unit. 

Epson's Eric Mizufuka, Product Manager, New Markets, answered Tom's Hardware's questions.

Optical
LCD Driving MethodPoly-silicon TFT active matrix
LCD size0.42 inch wide panel (16:9)
LCD Pixel Number518,400 dots (960x540) x 3
Field of ViewApprox. 23 °
Screen Size (Projected Distance)40 inches at 2.5 m - 320 inches at 20 m
Color Reproduction24 bit-color (16.77 million colors)
Refrech Rate60 Hz
Android Platform
OS TypeAndroid 4.04
OS Updatevia network
Pre-installed ApplicationsSEViewer, Moverio Apps Market, Moverio Air, Moverio Mirror (for WiFi Miracast)
Sensors
CameraVGA
GPSYes, in Controller
CompassYes, in both Headset and Controller
GyroscopeYes, in both Headset and Controller
AccelerometerYes, in both Headset and Controller
MicrophoneYes
Connectivity
Wireless LANIEEE 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth3.0
microUSBUSB 2.0
CPU And Memory
CPUTI OMAP 4460 1.2 GHz Dual-core
RAM1 GB
Internal Memory8 GB
External MemoryMicro SD (max. 2 GB), MicroSDHC (max. 32 GB)
User Interface
Function KeyHome, Menu, Back, Function (Brightness, 2D/3D), Volume (+/-), Power (lock), Reset
Touch pad Pointing methodCapacitive Multitouch
Supported File Formats
VideoMP4 (MPEG4+AAC / Dolby Digital Plus), MPEG2 (H.264+AAC / Dolby Digital Plus)
AudioAAC, MP3, WAV, Dolby Digital Plus
3D supportsSide By Side
Sound Output
SurroundYes, Dolby Digital Plus
General
Operating Temperature5 ° C - 35 ° C, 41 ° F - 95 ° F, 20 % - 80 % Humidity
Power Supply Voltage: AC adapter100 V - 240 V AC +/- 10%, 50 Hz/60 Hz, with Micro USB cable
Battery Life6 hrs (Video mode with Android at 25°)
Battery TypeLi-Polymer 2720 mAh
Dimensions: Head set170 mm x 185 mm x 32 mm (D x W x H) (without light shielding)
Dimensions: Controller120 mm x 55 mm x 19 mm (D x W x H)
Weight Headset88 g (without light Shielding / without harness)
Power Supply Voltage Controller5 V, 900 mA via micro USB terminal
Weight Controller124 g
What's in the boxAC adapter, Carrying Case, Ear Hook, Inner frame for optical lenses, Intraauricular earphone with microphone, Quick Setup Guide, Shade x2 (light and dark), USB cable, User Manual (CD-ROM)

Tom's Hardware: Is your technology based on AR or VR, and why?

Epson: Epson’s Moverio technology is based on augmented reality (AR), because it’s a transparent display centered in the user’s field of view. Augmented reality is able to blend the real world with the digital world, while a VR user can only see digital content. Our Moverio smart glasses are also binocular so developers can render 3D overlays of digital information onto real world objects, opening up an unlimited number of compelling use cases for enterprises in healthcare, training, logistics and more, as well as for consumers.

Tom's Hardware: When will we see mass adoption of VR and AR technology (defined as more than one million customers)?

Epson: I think that we’ll see the adoption of VR happen first in the consumer space with mass adoption in the next year or two, while AR’s early big sales and adoption will be driven by the enterprise space. I believe AR mass consumer adoption will occur 1-2 years after VR reaches mass consumer adoption.

Tom's Hardware: What are the technical hurdles still standing in the way?

Epson: For AR headsets form factor is important, including making the glasses smaller, lighter and less intrusive. The other technical hurdle is field of view. With a VR headset it is pretty easy to have a large field of view because you can use distortion optics and render an entire digital world, but with AR you need a smaller and lighter device since this is a headset that the user could be wearing on-the-go. Therefore, rendering a large field of view is a technical challenge for the smaller and lighter AR device.

Tom's Hardware: What are the non-technical hurdles standing in the way?

Epson: The non-technical hurdles are the social stigmas of wearing technology on your face. There is some negative feedback regarding certain consumer smart glasses, so I think that longer-term, consumers need to get more familiar with the technology in the workplace and through more purpose-built experiences.

Tom's Hardware: What steps are needed to remove those hurdles? What is your company doing specifically and technically to remove those hurdles?

Epson: Technically, to remove the hurdles, we’re investing heavily in miniaturizing the platform and making the glasses as small as possible. Our Moverio BT-200 smart glasses are down 60% in weight from our Moverio BT-100.

To combat the social stigma, we’re targeting very purpose-built applications and use cases like using the smart glasses in a museum or in the workplace where people actually know why you’re wearing the technology. This awareness and comfort will lead to greater adoption and acceptance of smart glasses.

Tom's Hardware: How will VR and AR change the gaming ecosystems in the future (PCs and components, consoles, controllers, and the games themselves)?

Epson: AR and VR are very processor-intensive – rendering digital content or recognizing anything in the user’s field of view requires a lot of processing power – so there is going to be a strong need for quick access to the cloud and intense vision recognition algorithms running in the background. I think this is really going to push the components industry, to keep up with the complex vision-recognition algorithms needed by augmented reality platforms.

Tom's Hardware: How will VR and AR change the world outside of gaming? Give us the most remarkable, life-changing examples you expect to happen.

Epson: In the near-term, the game-changing applications are in the workplace, providing a safer and more efficient work environment through the use of AR. Longer-term, I think providing real-time access to information anywhere will be a life-changing experience in how we interact and process the world around us.

Read more: Eyes-on Epson Moverio at CES 2014