Epson recently signed a deal with Mercedes' AMG Petronas racing team to develop a tour for their museum showcasing Formula One cars. The virtual reality glasses running Android, Google's operating system, could provide a visual tour to give the history of the car and who drove it as the visitor walks through the museum. Eric Mizufuka, product manager of new markets at Epson, said the person wearing the smartglasses could tag the item to purchase and pick up the item in the gift shop after the tour.
"We're also in talks with a number of museums in D.C. and New York to power some next-generation exhibits, many of which are sponsored," Mizufuka said.
Although Moverio runs on Android, a team of Google engineers continue to build out an advanced version of Android to power virtual-reality applications in response to Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in March 2014. Google continues to test the system through Cardboard, an inexpensive prototype kit that is intended to get developers interested in writing VR applications.
Oculus abandons reality and completely immerses the person wearing the headset in an augmented environment, entirely different from Microsoft HoloLens, Google Glass and Epson Moverio. Microsoft announced earlier this month that it would deliver a software development kit to help developers build games for HoloLens, a holographic augmented-reality headset.
Brands have a much better chance to create immersive advertising campaigns on HoloLens, Glass, and Moverio because the technology creates a virtual layer on top of reality allowing the wearer to function normally.
"Think of the Moverio as an Android tablet where the screen floats in front of you and the controls remain in your hand," Mizufuka said. He explained a hypothetical advertising campaign where shoppers can have a "head-up experience" and get information from a brand at a physical retail store while shopping. It works similar to an online experience where a search description through voice controls would lead the consumer via a guided map to specific shelves in the store.
Through WiFi, Moverio contracted with an unknown third party to build a stock Web browser and search engine optimized for the glasses.
Precision manufacturing remains one of the major challenges in producing smartglasses that rely on binocular and transparent display. To be off a fraction of a fraction causes misalignment in the visual effect. Epson's roots in projection technology will help the company find a niche in this emerging artistry and creative expression. The company also offers integration to a drone.
Another challenge points to the ability of software companies to develop hardware. Some believe that Google Glass failed to deliver on virtual reality because of its dominance in software, not hardware. Not according to Sean McCracken, who develops AR and VR consumer products. As the CEO of Imaginary Computer, he is credited with developing Cyclopes, the first Google Glass game.
McCracken said a domino effect after Edward Snowden brought security issues to the forefront created by the Google Glass recent "reboot." Snowden, who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency, believes that Google never really launched a real product, but rather a test Glass prototype.
Somehow, he said, the marketing message got lost in privacy concerns about the camera on the device. "Everyone went to this creepy place of being monitored because people wore the glasses wherever they went," he said.
Unlike Google Glass, Epson Moverio's lens sits in the middle of each eyepiece. It allows the person wearing the smartglasses to look through the augmented layer to focus on the physical reality. The hardware comes with a hand device to control the software loaded through an SDK card or downloaded from the Internet through WiFi. Similarly, Microsoft HoloLens offers a see-through display, but it relies on the physical attributes of the world around the wearer to augment the software in the glasses. This is quite different from Google Glass, in which the wearer must focus on the upper portion of the lens to augment reality. Oculus encloses the wearer completely in another reality.
"We're fooled at the coolness of these devices," McCracken said. "We're still a ways from seeing real consumer AR devices."
McCracken sees head-mounted displays as the future. Smartphones still remain in the beginning Macintosh phase, where the CPU and the screen are one. He said that once head-mounted displays become affordable, consumers will use them to project images from smartphones, which become the server.
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