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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

Epson Showcases Its Augmented Reality “Smart Glasses”

March 12th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Last year we got pretty excited when Google Glass was first introduced and the possibilities it offered, both generally and for CAD users.

Although I’m gradually coming around, I still personally find the Google Glass technology/device concept intrusive, but have to admit it is innovative and possibly inevitable. Google Glass is still being tested and has received mixed reviews. Even though not generally yet, there are already several places and events where Google Glass will be banned.

According to Google, “Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project, with the mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer.” Like all things Google, Glass runs under Android, and this might be a good thing for wide acceptance.

Any negativity shown toward the device, however, has not stopped many companies from exploring the possibilities of Google Glass. In fact, a CAD company last year announced an app for Google Glass — TurboSite from IMSI/Design.

OK, TurboSite for Goggle Glass is an AEC application, but you have to believe it could also be used in plant design and verification, as well as facilities management.

As for MCAD, I envision that it could be used in automotive, aerospace, consumer product design sectors, and shipbuilding (after all, a ship is just a horizontal building that floats). This marks the dawn of a new age of design with hardware shrinking from yesterday’s main frames to today’s wearable computers that will only continue to get smaller as their utility becomes bigger.

I’ve heard rumors that Autodesk and SolidWorks may be working on apps for Google Glass and other so-called “smart glasses.”

Earlier this week, Epson America showcased conceptual demos of its second-generation Moverio BT-200 “smart glasses” for augmented and virtual reality experiences at the SXSW Conference in Austin. Augmented reality (AR) allows for a digitally enhanced view of the real world. AR can add layers of digital information on top of items in the world around us.

Epson’s second generation augmented reality smart glasses debuted earlier this year at CES 2014. Keep in mind, though, the Moverio BT-200 shouldn’t be confused as a Google Glass competitor. For example, you wouldn’t want to wear the Moverio everywhere you go. It’s meant primarily for your personal time or maybe on a long flight, but there are certainly business applications for the technology as well. Since the display is visible to both eyes, movies and games translate well to it. Going forward, augmented reality is going to be the focal point for both games and commercial business use.

Epson Moverio BT-200 – Product Overview

At SXSW three new conceptual apps on the Moverio BT-200s were demonstrated by Sean McCracken, CEO of Imaginary Computer, including:

Gesture Control
This is the first smart glasses app integrating the Myo gesture control armband. With the Myo wearable device and Moverio, a user makes a fist to “grab” data streams and then moves their arms to relocate the data wherever they want it in their field of view – enabling a transparent, virtual 3D desktop on top of the user’s real-world environment.

Moving beyond the gestural computing where characters are tied to hardware displays when accessing information gesturally, users can walk around with the Moverio smart glasses and view multiple data windows.

Integrated Second-Screen
McCracken created a second-screen experience that enables the Moverio smart glass wearer to watch their favorite TV programs while viewing real-time updates from their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds with a simple turn of the head with Moverio’s on-board head-motion sensors.

The augmented reality app allows user to choose any focal point such as a TV, computer monitor or even live concert or sporting event, and sit back and access their “lifestream” without interrupting their viewing experience.

Shared Smart Glasses
McCracken’s PSYCLOPs arcade game for smart glasses was updated to allow up to four Moverio users to play the game simultaneously via Bluetooth. Tablets and smartphones can also be integrated, demonstrating how smart glasses could fit into a larger eco-system of devices in consumer or enterprise applications involving shared experiences.

Hands On With the Epson Moverio BT-200

The Epson Moverio BT-200 offers a true binocular experience that projects see-through overlays of digital content onto the real-world in the smart glasses’ field of view. In addition, the Moverio BT-200 includes a combination of new features and capabilities, including gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetic compass sensors for head-motion tracking and hands-free navigation, and a front-facing camera to record images and video, as well as detect real-world markers for augmented reality applications.

The Moverio BT-200 smart glasses will be available at the end of March with an MSRP of $699.99.

Will devices like Google Glass and the Epson Moverio BT-200 radically change MCAD-related events, such as design reviews, walkthroughs, and marketing studies? That’s still difficult to predict at this point, and will largely depend on the vendors that get on board, unique applications and experiences they provide, and, of course, acceptance by technical consumers.

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