“2017 is going to be the year where VR and AR is really expected to start show some sales and some real meaningful value to businesses and customers,” said Eric Mizufuka of Epson America, Inc. Speaking at Augmented World Expo 2016, Mizufuka emphasizes his concern that the AR/VR market may be at peak expectations and that, in 2017, investors will want to see a return on the promises that have been made for years.
Mizufuka indicates that EPSON’s latest generation, android-based smart glasses, the BT-300 set to launch later this year, will incorporate customer feedback they received from earlier products, including:
- a lightweight design (less than 2 ounces),
- affordable ($700-800)
- high-resolution image quality (dual 1280×720 displays, capable of 3D display).
By creating something that is as unobtrusive as sunglasses, there are a of applications that Mizufuka puts into the following categories:
- Virtual reality for gaming and entertainment
- Augmented Reality – wearable display a fourth screen
- Notification display – enterprise wearable camera
- Mixed reality – TBD – developer kit
Applications in the entertainment realm include subtitling in theaters (e.g. translating the Italian language opera to English), stadiums and museums. He points out that they have versions of their glasses designed for industrial applications that feature:
- waterproof and dust proof design
- fit over helmets
- a handheld mouse that operates with gloves,
- a design that meets ANSI Z87.1-2010 specification
An initial “killer application” is the use of the glasses with drones. Mizufuka describes the usefulness of being able to see important meta-data about a flight, such as no-fly zone alerts, while looking at the drone and/or seeing the drone’s perspective through the drone’s cameras.
[added 9/8/16 – Epson and drone maker, DJI, announced a partnership to create solutions out of each others’ respective products, as shown in this video. In a press release, Mizufuka, added, “In addition to validating Epson’s investment in its Moverio line, this is the first time AR smart glasses will be widely available for a mass-market consumer application, marking an historic milestone in the evolution of the category.”]
Long-term, the developer kit and associated ecosystem may be the most important feature of these smart glasses. Mizufuka points out that developers are augmenting the ability of the glasses in many ways, including the addition of voice, gesture recognition and head-tracking to give users different ways of interacting with these smart glasses. And the development of different technologies to enhance their smart glasses could lead to productivity gains in a variety of industries.
For instance, it isn’t too difficult to imagine a dental hygienist donning a pair of smart glasses and reciting the periodontal pocket depth of each tooth and have it automatically appear on the smart glass screen. This would eliminate the assistant that is normally needed to manually enter the data and provide the hygienist with visual verification that the appropriate number associates with the correct tooth. Of course, if the cameras on the smart glasses are good enough, then it might be possible to have an automatic visual verification as well.
It is the practical applications, like those that deliver a productivity boost in the aforementioned example, that will help smart glasses move beyond inflated expectations and become part of everyday expectations.