A lot of people make fun of Google Glass. Some of them think wearing Glass makes you look like a hipster cyborg.
Others object to the built-in spy camera, which is a screaming privacy violation and a good way to get yourself punched in the nose.
But not many people criticize the actual technology of Glass (which is generally excellent). They talk instead about the social problems of wearing Glass.
My guess, therefore, is that Google Glass will never become a popular consumer item. It will settle into niches where having a hands-free camera and screen make sense: extreme sports, aircraft maintenance, surgery, and so on.
That’s why Epson is so smart to target its new Moverio BT200 smart glasses ($700) at niche uses from the outset.
“We don’t believe the world is ready for an always-on use case,” the product manager told me. Translation: Nobody is going to wear smart glasses around town. They’re for special cases, especially augmented reality (where you see text and graphics overlaid on the world around you) and virtual reality (where you can look around inside imaginary worlds).
With that understanding, Epson’s designers were freed from many of the constraints that Google has faced in making its smart glasses. For example, Epson’s designers don’t have to care much about fashion.
Which is lucky, because Epson’s glasses look ridiculous.
Unlike Google Glass, which places a single screen above your right eye, these are true glasses. They have actual lenses, which you’re supposed to look through. (These new BT200s are much smaller, lighter, and better successors to an earlier Epson product, the bulky BT100s.)
What it comes with
Epson includes a handy carrying case and two clip-on “sunglasses” attachments, for use when it’s very bright outside. You even get a clip-on frame that you can have outfitted with prescription lenses. You can also wear the BT200s over your existing glasses, if you don’t mind looking even sillier.
Epson has harnessed its projector technology for these glasses. When you look through them, you see a big, sharp, colorful screen floating 16 feet away. Incredibly, that image is being reflected from miniature projectors in each earpiece into two semi-transparent mirrors in your field of view: one for each eye.