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Epson Launches Useful – But Ugly – Moverio Smartglasses

moverioWhen you think of smart glasses, the first product you’ll probably imagine is Google’s well-known Glass. It’s a simple-looking device that could catch on big if people can get past privacy concerns and the possible fashion faux pas it creates. But today, Epson has released the Moverio BT-200, a pair of Android-powered smart glasses that cost $700…and also any perception that you might have good taste.

Where Glass features a relatively small display on only one lens (whether there’s an actual lens there or not), the Moverio has dual displays that can be utilized with or without prescription lenses. That means that users have more “screen” space to work with, not to mention the possibility of full 3D visuals. That opens the door for higher-quality augmented reality applications, as well as immersive gaming experiences. Features like that certainly go a long way toward showing off what’s possible in the smart glasses category.

But for all those powerful features, there are plenty of aspects of the Moverio that seem to make it less than desirable – and practically unwearable.

moverio-smallFirst of all, it’s ugly. While Glass has taken its share of criticism for its unfashionable design, it’s nowhere near as chunky as the Moverio. Second, the Moverio is hardwired an Android 4.0-based control unit, which is actually a cell phone shaped track-pad that functions as the main means of user interface. That means that no matter what clothes you wear to try and accessorize with your Moverio glasses, you’ll always have a long, black wire running down from your face, making you look like the nerdiest cyborg around.

A post on Wall Street Journal about the Moverio explains that one of the main uses for the device is for practical, work-based applications, like how to assemble or disassemble a computer, or instructions for stocking shelves. And that’s likely just the start; it’s not hard to imagine other ways that a device like Moverio could help people accomplish complicated tasks. Epson’s Eric Mizufuka is quoted in the post as explaining the company’s task-oriented focus with the device:

“Our view is that you need purpose-built applications to really make smart glasses useful. So far we are finding these sort of applications in the enterprise.”

That said, one still has to wonder whether the Moverio will actually find a substantial-enough user based to justify its existence. Presumably there are people out there who want this thing—it’s actually the second iteration of the device line, with the Moverio BT-100 was released in 2011.

But Mizufuka’s statement seems to be, if you’ll pardon the pun, awfully short-sighted. Google’s work with Glass revolves around making a device that helps people live better lives though technological integration. Making Glass wireless, and prepping device-specific apps that seamlessly add to our lives at work and at play, could go a long way toward making smart glasses a legitimate product category. And the company is still working on making the device fashionable, a goal that Epson seems to have little to no interest in with its Moverio product line.

In all, the Moverio seems like a cash grab. It’s ugly, yet ostentatious. It has few practical every day applications, and might be good for watching a movie on an airplane. However, this device seems a lot like Epson’s attempt to ride the wave of interest in Google Glass and sell a less-than-useful device to people who have too much money and don’t mind letting you know about it.



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