Hands On Epson's Moverio BT-200: Augmented Reality Lite

By Brent Rose on at

A couple years ago we saw Epson's Moverio make its debut. It was kind of like a double-eyed Google Glass, but it had a lot of issues. It was bulky, it was dim, it didn't have any sensors. Basically, it didn't do much. Today, the BT-200 is here, and it's undeniably much better. The only question is, who's it for?

Let's start with the upgrades. Compared to the 100, the BT-200 is 60-per cent smaller, with a screen that's twice as bright. It now has a front-facing camera with an indicator light to prevent you from being a voyeurist. It also finally has all of the sensors it needs to be a legitimate augmented reality machine, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a compass.

In other words, you can now use your head as a controller, looking around to pan around a 3D world, which feels very natural. Additionally, it can act as a wireless display (it's not yet Miracast certified, but that's what it'll be), so you'll be able to beam content to/from other connected devices.

Hands On Epson's Moverio BT-200: Augmented Reality Lite

The unit is comprised of three pieces. There are the glasses, which are big, clear, and frankly make Google Glass look like haute couture. There's a projector on each side of your face, which beams images through prisms and into your eyes at a qHD resolution (960 x 540 pixels).

Then there's a little, boxy, handheld controller that's wired to the glasses. It's kinda like an Android phone, but without the screen. It has a touchpad with home/back/menu buttons and it does indeed run Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean). That's essentially how you select items, with a click and swipe and the like. Then there's a little unit in the middle with a headphone jack (the glasses have no built-in audio).

The experience of using it is somewhere in between Google Glass and the Oculus Rift. It's more virtual-reality-ish than Glass, because the image is directly in the centre of your vision, and because it overlays information onto what you're seeing around you. At the same time, because it's just a small image, and because you can see the outside world, it's far less immersive than the Oculus.

Hands On Epson's Moverio BT-200: Augmented Reality Lite

Epson is marketing the BT-200 toward gamers and for enterprise and industrial/medical applications. As far as gaming goes, I'm not quite sure I see it. I got to play a few very simple games with it, and don't get me wrong, it's fun to use you head as a controller, but it just doesn't feel like virtual reality because it isn't immersive enough. That said, we were told that Namco Bandai games would be showing off an augmented reality fighting game, which we've got high hopes for.

It can also be used to view 3D content, because it supports side-by-side 3D, which is pretty standard. I watched a 3D YouTube clip with it, and despite it not having any cross-talk, it just isn't a satisfying 3D experience. The whole point of 3D is that it's more immersive, and seeing it on a small screen while the rest of the world is still visible, well, it just doesn't cut it.

Probably the better application for this, though, is industrial. We've already seen how a modded version could be highly useful in medical environment, allowing doctors and nurses to see the exact perfect place to jab you with a needle. Or it could provide technicians a valuable tool for doing diagnostics on huge machines. Or imagine you were trying to fix your own car, and you got stuck. There could be a service that looks through your eyes, and has a real mechanic highlight the piece you need to work on.

The Epson Moverio BT-200 will be available in March or April in the US but as yet there is no word on the UK release date. It is expected to sell in the mid-£400 range going on the $700 USD price announcement. Is this the sweet-spot any of you were looking for?