Kim has always appreciated Epson, the way they think about how their customers use technology, and how they adapt to customers' needs, not the other way around. Epson has created cutting-edge equipment and technology, including the new Moverio BT30C augmented reality (AR) glasses.
Now, before you dismiss this as technology you'll never use, think again. We talked to Epson senior product manager Eric Mizufuka, who explained how the Moverio BT30C AR glasses are used in everyday life, and how they're not meant for always-on use.
With this and its EcoTank printers, our sponsor, Epson has taken another step toward proving just how cutting edge it can be. First, a quick look at what augmented reality is and how it differs from virtual reality.
Augmented vs. virtual vs. mixed reality
The phrases augmented, virtual and mixed reality are not interchangeable. Each has a distinct meaning:
- Augmented reality (AR): Augmented reality adds digital elements and information to your live/real-world view by using the camera on a device. You'll see this on smartphones, heads-up display on cars, and smart eyeglasses.
- Virtual reality (VR): VR features an all-digital world. It’s all-immersive. You’re interacting with an imagined environment instead of the real world. Whether you're playing a game or using apps, virtual reality completely replaces your view and surroundings, taking you to other places, without relying on where you are. VR is ideal for gaming and at-home engaged experiences where you have adequate space and time for use.
- Mixed reality (MR): This is probably the least known of the three, but its key feature lies in its flexibility. Just as its name suggests, mixed reality combines the best facets and features of both VR and AR technology. MR allows users to see and interact with the real world (like AR) while seeing believable and virtual objects as well (like VR). Then, it anchors those virtual objects to a real point in your space, making it possible to treat them as "real," at least from the users perspective.
3 ways we'll use AR glasses
Mizufuka explained three ways the Moverio BT30C glasses are already being used in the real world. The technology is designed for both work and play and allows free movement while projecting images over whatever you look at. AR builds these interactions and experiences according to the physical environment around you.
With Epson's AR glasses, travelers can avoid the dreaded “tech neck,” from constantly looking down at their laptops and devices. Additionally, consider how crammed airplane travel can be and how other passengers can see what you're looking at on your mobile screen. With AR glasses, you can preserve your screen privacy while on the go or traveling in a confined space.
By collaborating with ARtGlass, an AR storytelling and cultural enhancement software (artglassgroup.com), Epson's Moverio has re-imagined the landscape and experience of virtual tourism. The partnership allows users to explore historical landmarks such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon, James Monroe’s Highland, Madam Tussauds, and even the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The glasses provide subtitling for tourists as well. For example, If you are overseas in Italy you can do the Leaning Tower of Pisa tour in the native language and the glasses will subtitle everything for you in English.
Since partnering with the U.K.'s National Theater in 2018, Epson has carved out a special place in the world of entertainment, art, and culture. Moverio created a pair of AR smart glasses that are used to display a synchronized transcript of dialogue and sound from live performances directly onto the lenses, specifically for those audience members who have trouble hearing.
Now connected via USB and HDMI, Epson's new AR glasses present a simple plug-and-play action that allows users to instantly access a wide range of AR content. This can include numerous AR entertainment apps and mobile gaming content, all of which are available for your enjoyment as you make your long commute to work.
Speaking of work, AR glasses have the potential to make certain jobs easier as well. The ability to operate three separate work apps or platforms on three screens could make for smoother multitasking experiences. Imagine having a web browser on one screen, your agenda on the another, and a spreadsheet on a third.
For example, a remote technician might toggle between manuals, enterprise apps, productivity tools and respond to someone on Slack, all with a simple nod.
The Moverio BT-30C can interface with custom B2B applications as well such as the captioning, subtitling and language translation features that we mentioned earlier. This can come in handy when doing business with foreign corporations or partners.
History of Epson and innovation
If you've been a close follower of Epson over the past 8 years or so, you know this isn't its first time around with augmented reality. "We were in the AR business before it was cool," Mizufuka said.
The venture officially launched in 2011, before Google Glass and Oculus Rift. In 2014, Epson released its BT200 product, which featured a built-in camera and motion sensors. Initially, drone pilots used it so they could have a heads-up experience as they flew.
Since then, Epson has been tweaking its Moverio lineup. It now has a legitimate sales channel and a working relationship with Android smartphones and Windows laptops through a USB connection.
The overall experience has been integrated into your line of sight, allowing you to load three apps on different screens and switch between them by simply turning your head."The idea is that the smart glasses now create a multi-screen canvas," Mizufuka said.
The Moverio BT-30C smart glasses are available for pre-order through Longitude Development and will ship in June 2019 for $499 MSRP, making it the first pair of binocular smart glasses priced under $500.
Epson's EcoTank Printer
If you've been a longtime follower of Kim Komando, you know that the EcoTank printer is something we not only use, but we recommend for home and office.
The EcoTank printer is yet another example of how Epson presents a cutting edge solution to a costly and time-consuming problem. First introduced in 2015, Epson's EcoTank printers have given users a viable alternative to printers that constantly require buying/replacing expensive ink cartridges. A printer that holds a substantial amount of ink in refillable tanks.
That's right, instead of replacing the cartridge, you refill the ink from bottles. Not a drop shall be wasted either, as they are specifically shaped auto-stop bottles that easily fill supersized ink tanks. Each EcoTank includes 2 years worth of ink as well, which is the equivalent to about 30 sets of ink cartridges.
Using low-cost replacement bottles as opposed to cartridges leads to savings of up to 80% on ink, which over the course of the printer's life, ultimately saves you a substantial amount of money.