Transparency

The view from Inside Epson's Moverio smart glasses program

Vision Quest for the Legally Blind

Oxford prototype BT 100 and Xtion

Oxford Prototype using Moverio BT-100

There are over 360,000 people in Britain alone who are partially sighted or registered legally blind. In the United States, this number rises astronomically to over 6.7 million people. And “legally blind” does not mean that these men, women and children are completely without vision; many are just suffering from severe vision problems like macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa or retinopathy.

“For most people, it’s a gradual continuum of sight loss,” explained Dr. Stephen Hicks, a clinical neuroscientist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “Naturally, no one really wants to tell everyone about their condition. Many people have reported that they’ve really embarrassed their friends by just walking past them. It’s hard to maintain relationships like that.”

Not being able to detect faces or expressions is just one of the problematic situations that visually impaired people experience. Almost four years ago he began designing his Smart Specs, a pair glasses that will help people with limited vision “see” their surroundings. He was interested in building his own product, something that looked like a regular pair of glasses—something that would be discreet, so that people wearing them wouldn’t be recognized as visually impaired.

Although Dr. Hicks and his team had created prototypes, they would be costly to produce, in regards to both time and money. They tried a lot of other augmented reality glasses on the market, but Epson’s first version of the Moverio glasses, the BT-100, won out.

“There were a lot of things I was looking for in a display that I found in the BT-100s. I wanted something really clear and transparent. I wanted people to use sight as they normally do, which meant they needed to be binocular,” said Dr. Hicks. “The characteristics of the display were great. Plus, the people we were testing it on preferred it to the other choices.”

Dr. Hicks and his team installed a depth camera, a combination of an infrared projector and an infrared camera, on top of the BT-100 using a custom 3-D printed frame. It projects a structured light pattern, and the camera interprets the patterns to find objects nearby. “It could be a wall, a desk or a person,” Dr. Hicks said. “They’re coded by brightness: If you’re very close, the objects become very bright. If they’re further away they become darker.”

Recently, Dr. Hicks and his team received funding from Google to take the latest Moverio version, the BT-200, and build on what they’ve already developed in order to start trials in 2015.

And so far, the glasses have been well received. “I’ve always liked augmented reality. I’ve always thought that it would obviously be an awesome thing,” said Dr. Hicks. “The fact that I can create something to help bring that about is incredibly satisfying.”

The Royal National Institute for the Blind feel that glasses could help over 150,000 legally blind people in the United Kingdom, as well as over 15 million people worldwide. See the Smart Specs in action in the two videos below:

Epson Featured at the Largest Software Event Ever…

bt200_04What do Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bruno Mars, former Vice President Al Gore, Michael Leyva, Brian Ballard (APX Labs), and I have in common?  We’re all speakers at Dreamforce 2014, a conference hosted by Salesforce.com that is being billed as the largest software event ever.  Based on the fact that I couldn’t find a hotel room under $1,000 in San Francisco, I wouldn’t doubt that claim!  The Epson Moverio team is thrilled to be participating at the event in a number of capacities, including:

 

  • A booth in the Developer Zone/IOT (Internet of Things). We’ll be here with our friends at APX Labs showing off our Moverio smart glasses running on APX’s Skylight platform powered off of data from the Salesforce.com Service Cloud.

Monday, October 13th:                    8:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Tuesday, October 14th:                   8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Wednesday, October 15th:              8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Thursday, October 16th:                  8:00 AM – 2:00 PM

  • A panel: Wearing the Future – how wearables will impact the enterprise.  This panel is all about showcasing real use cases and applications that can impact customer experience and employee productivity within the enterprise.

Tuesday, October 14th, 11:30 – 12:30 / Location: Palace Hotel – Ralston Ballroom

  • A workshop: Optimizing your Salesforce.com app for smart glasses. In this workshop, you’ll learn more about optimizing your Salesforce.com application for the Epson Moverio smart glasses.  The hands on component of this session will include:
    • an exhibition of a cutting edge Salesforce.com integrated demo built by APX Labs
    • the opportunity to bring your own Salesforce.com Android app (apk file) to test on a pair of Epson Moverio smart glasses
    • a detailed overview of developer tools and resources available for the Epson Moverio platform

Wednesday, October 15th, 1:30pm-2:15pm / Location: Moscone Center West IOT Lab #1

Register here: https://success.salesforce.com/Ev_Sessions#/session/a2q30000000oNDY

We’ve committed to give away a limited number of glasses to those developers that can port and demo their Salesforce.com Android apps on the Moverio smart glasses, so please swing by our booth or workshop to find out more.

See you there!

Eric (@wteric)

Propeller Panoramas

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Key Hole – Big Sur

“I really didn’t think they were such a great idea until I had them on and I was flying,” remembered Romeo Durscher about the first time he tried flying a drone with the Moverio BT-200 glasses. “It completely changed my perception of the possibilities.”

He and his DJI partner in crime, Mark Johnson, had used other FPV (first-person view) solutions before, but none offered transparency. “Once you put on any other kind of glasses, you forget everything around you. While that’s really cool, it’s not very safe when you’re flying a drone,” explained Romeo. “Moverio gives you the option to see what’s happening around you, and you can quickly focus on the screen to see what the camera sees.”

Romeo finds that the Moverio’s dark shades help him shoot better when it’s really bright outside, especially compared to a tablet or smartphone, where the glare from the sun hinders the view of the screen. They allow him to fly more confidently while lining up better shots.

Shooting photographs using a drone can make terrestrial-bound photographers green with envy. Romeo recalls his trip to Big Sur at the winter solstice, where for just 10 days the setting sun shines through a rocky archway just offshore. “Literally hundreds of photographers travel from all over the world to see this,” said Romeo. “Your position on the beach becomes extremely important. Once the time was right, I flew the drone over the beach and grabbed a shot that none of them could hope to capture. It was truly a unique perspective.”

Romeo shared his top four techniques for shooting panoramas with a drone:

  1. God’s eye view: “If you just want to take a single image, go for the god’s eye view. With the Phantom Vision+, you can look straight down on any sort of tower or tall object. You get a perspective that looks very surreal because it’s rare we ever see it.”
  2. Panorama–horizontal: Using the drone’s camera and some good flying skills, photographers can take a number of stills along the horizon to “stitch” together in Photoshop to create this common form of panorama.
  3. Panorama–vertical: “Few people do this because it’s not very intuitive,” Romeo explained. Start from the god’s eye view and then begin tilting the camera up until it reaches the horizon. “Once the panorama is stitched together, it really screws with your brain. It realizes that something isn’t right—you can’t look straight down and at the horizon at the same time.”
  4. Tiny planet: “You take a panorama and work it in Photoshop so that the edges match each other and you wrap it around. Essentially, you make a little planet out of it.”

You can see more of Romeo’s panoramas and photographs on his website, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo to see what he and Mark get up to next.

 

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God’s Eye view

DCIM111GOPRO

Panorama – horizontal

Pigone_Point_Vertical_Pano

Panorama – vertical

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Tiny Planet

Photos Courtesy: Romeo Durscher

Note: This is the second in a series of four posts inspired by a pre-show workshop arranged by Adobe’s Russell Brown for Photoshop World 2014. Checkout the first and third posts called Drones on a Plain and A Stitch of Nine in No Time.

Drones on a Plain

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“Oh my God,” Abbé Lyle said softly. Her reaction made the rest of us nervous: Would she crash the drone? Would she blow the last shot of the day? Tears ran down her face, followed by something peculiar: a wide smile.

Abbé was one of 45 participants who left the hubbub of the Las Vegas strip and headed southeast to a dusty ghost town nestled in a red-rock valley to attend Russell Brown’s Lights, Aerial Camera, Action! Workshop.

Nelson, Nevada is a photographer’s playground and the perfect place to fly a dozen camera-toting DJI Phantom drones. Tilted, hollow barns surrounded by antique trucks sitting on melted tires lined the single road. Detritus of years past, including a crashed WWII plane, covered the desert. It was surreal, hot and…dangerous. We were warned to watch out for fire ants, rattlesnakes and cacti that will literally shoot their spines at those who pass too close.

Our goal was to create a collaborative video. The participants, their skill level ranging from beginner to advanced, were separated into eight teams. The instructors put the participants through their paces, making sure that their team had the skills required to not only take great shots, but to keep the drones safely in the air.

AbbeAs the sun set, the shadows grew long and the sky turned a deep amber. Magic Hour had finally arrived. Up until this point, everyone had flown the drones using a smart phone mounted on top of the drone’s controller to frame their shots. But Abbé’s flight was different. She was the first to pilot her drone wearing Epson’s Moverio augmented reality glasses. Her tears of joy resulted from her first person view (FPV) from the drone.

The rest of the participants tried their hand at FPV flying until it was too dark to continue. And while a dusty, tired crowd of newly minted drone photographers filed back on to the bus, the Adobe video editors had their work cut out for them—to comb through the day’s aerial footage and assemble a video to commemorate the day—a video that is as mind-bending as the town of Nelson itself.

Here’s the result of our day in the desert.

Note: This is the first in a series of four posts inspired by a pre-show workshop arranged by Adobe’s Russell Brown for Photoshop World 2014. Check out the second and third posts called Propeller Panoramas and A Stitch of Nine in No Time.

Our Second Moverio Hackathon: AWE 2014

Team HUDHowTo: From left to right: David Lee, Lesley Bell, Liza Gere, and Tim Hayes.

One of the best parts about working on the New Ventures team is that I get to interact with developers from around the world. We rely on this developer community to both come-up with augmented reality applications, and to port them to our Moverio BT-200 smart glasses. One of the coolest places to watch developers bring their ideas to life is at a hackathon.

We sponsored our first hackathon last summer at our corporate headquarters and have been looking for the right opportunity to hold another event. We did by hosting our second hackathon, May 26th-27th, at the Augmented World Expo (AWE 2014) in Santa Clara, Calif.

More than 80 developers gathered for the 36-hour, two-day event. With a prestigious Auggie Award and more than $24,000 in prizes on the line, several teams worked through the night to build working demos in such a short amount of time.

So what did the teams come up with? Here are a few examples:

The teams presented their concept demos to a judging panel of AR industry leaders and the assembled audience. The winning team, HUDHowTo, created a DIY augmented reality ‘How To’ tutorials.

I spoke with team member Tim Hayes to get his insights on the winning app. Here’s what he told me:

After deciding that the original idea wasn’t really going to work, we all quickly pivoted into brainstorming mode and landed on the HUDHowTo application. The app allows the user to play a how-to video that has been segmented into individual steps. After each step, users have the option to continue to the next if they are ready, replay the last step if they need to review it, or call an expert.

The big value-add for business is that when the user calls for help, the customer support representative also receives the exact point the user is in the procedure. This means they no longer need to ask introductory questions to ensure the user has successfully completed the initial steps. This could greatly reduce call times. Future versions of the app could also allow the service representative to see what the user is looking at via a streamed live camera feed, giving them further context and allowing them to provide more accurate assistance in even less time.

Tim also loved hacking Moverio, telling me:

The Moverio smart glasses were incredibly easy to work with. Any Android developer should have no trouble getting applications up and running on these devices. The touch pad allows for user interaction nearly equivalent to a mouse or touch screen, which makes it perfect for getting prototypes out very quickly as you don’t need to support gesture-based input from the start. Obviously, this is perfect for a hackathon scenario.

It was clear that everyone was excited to be hacking on some of the most advanced technology on the market — I was no exception.

Thanks to Tim, AWE, and everyone who came out to participate in the hackathon. Now, when will our next one be?

What the Oculus VR Acquisition Means for Smart Glasses

The tech world was buzzing over Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR a few weeks ago, especially among those interested in the smart glasses industry.

First, my congratulations go out to my friends at Oculus. They’ve built a tremendous platform and have managed the company very well to get where they are today.

For Epson and its development partners and customers, news of the acquisition has created a lot of excitement. Countless developers and companies have asked me about the Oculus acquisition and how our technology compares to theirs and Google Glass. I think the buzz is giving people a framework for how to think about the industry, and is bringing additional insight and clarity to the space. For Epson, that means people are gaining a better understanding of the Moverio BT-200 platform’s strength in augmented reality.

What many people haven’t realized yet is that specific use cases are determined by how each platform is built. For instance, Google Glass has a singular/monocular, transparent “look up” display, which is great for social media notifications, transcribing data, and taking photos and videos, but is not necessarily the best platform for AR overlays or VR gaming.

The Oculus Rift platform, on the other hand, is binocular and opaque, meaning that the user is completely immersed in the digitally created VR content, and cannot see or interact with the real-world.

Epson’s Moverio BT-200 smart glasses are binocular and transparent, allowing users to see and interact with digital content and their real-world surroundings. With the Moverio BT-200, content is at the center of the user’s field of view. Because the content is transparent, users can project 3D overlays on top of real objects, enabling an endless number of augmented reality app development opportunities. Some of the best early use cases are being found in logistics, training, wellness, education and consumer gaming.

quadrantglasses

The acquisition is a validation ($2 billion dollars’ worth!) that VR and AR platforms will play a major role in the future of computing. While Oculus is strictly a VR play, the potential for additional innovative technologies is evident, with Zuckerberg himself mentioning AR during his conference call with Facebook investors. I believe the acquisition will inspire even more developers outside of gaming to explore the exciting possibilities of VR and AR smart glasses.

You’re so Vein

mask

When we announced the Moverio BT-200 smart glasses at CES this year, we got all sorts of reactions–some of them listed in the comments of CNET’s YouTube video Epson’s Moverio BT-200 Smart Glasses deliver Andriod Apps in Augmented Reality.

  • “Stupid.”
  • “pointless”
  • “LOL, hysterical :) Who would wear this… Unbelievable”
  • “My goodness that thing looks so dumb”
  • “Why do they even bother making this stuff”

I totally get it. Moverio is an early augmented reality development platform, and without the context of a real-life application, the glasses might look silly. But, what about applications where looking stylish is secondary to functionality?

For example, have you ever had an intravenous injection? If so, did the nurse stick you more than once while trying to find a vein? Three times? More? What if the nurse was wearing a device that highlighted exactly where veins were located, helping to guide the needle to hit its mark the first time? Would you care how the nurse looked?

Evena Medical has developed an application that does exactly that. Using the Moverio platform, the Evena has created a wearable device to fulfill the following mantra: “One nurse, one stick, in one minute.”

At first glance, new wearable technologies may look strange, but put into the context of a useful application, it may not matter.

Check out the demo that Evena Medical gave at our booth at CES 2014.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

A Tale of Two Displays

Two years ago, Epson released the Moverio BT-100, our first wearable display system. We released it and have been working with developers ever since. And they had lots to say:

• They wanted a front facing camera.
• They felt it was too bulky and wanted it smaller and lighter.
• They didn’t want a daughter card to be required to get video out.
• And they wanted motion sensors.

So, we listened and built the Moverio BT-200

Here’s a quick comparison of the two products:

the_two_moverios

Black Is the New Clear

First coined by our good friend and smart glasses app developer extraordinaire Sean McCracken as he was checking out the Moverio BT-100, “black is the new clear” has become our favorite new catchphrase.

Why? It’s counter-intuitive – how can anything black be clear? But it’s useful in explaining how Android app developers can optimize their augmented reality content for the Moverio smart glasses.

Having a black or transparent background is our first, and most important, recommendation for customizing your content for the Moverio platform. This concept may not be as critical for “look-up” smart glass displays that sit outside your field of view. However, because the Moverio display is centered in your field of view, it’s important that you remove and minimize any visual elements that don’t contribute to the overall experience.

By rendering backgrounds in black, developers can seamlessly blend the real and digital worlds to create a powerful, immersive experience on the Moverio smart glasses. It sets them free to invent all sorts of useful and/or entertaining apps that integrate the environment around you.

A common practice of most phone/tablet developers is to fill every speck of background with color and design. With smart glasses, however, developers have to look at their content differently. A good example of what is possible comes from our partner APX labs in the following video. They attached motion sensors onto the smart glasses which allowed them to create a 360 degree canvas where you can digitally overlay almost anything onto the user’s view of the real environment. Watch the video and notice how content is cleverly out of the way until the user decides to request more details.

When we launched Moverio over 18 months ago, we released a video showing all of its possibilities in science, education, gaming, architecture and more. Since then, we’ve been able to work with developers to actually bring some of these ideas to life. We’ve also heard their feedback and are incorporating many of their ideas into our next-generation products. We appreciate their input and can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Costs/Benefits of a Hackathon

Epson hosted its first hackathon at our Long Beach headquarters on August 24th & 25th. We, in partnership with Metaio GmbHinvited developers to come up with killer augmented reality application ideas for our Moverio smart glasses.

The “See Smarter: Moverio Glasses Hackathon” drew a strong turnout of both veteran and up-and-coming developers looking to put both their knowledge and creativity to the test.

All things considered, the hackathon was a success. We loved the applications that our participants came up with–such as racing against your own, virtual 3D avatar in a real-world foot race, or creating a haunted house with virtual ghosts and ghouls springing from around various corners.

The benefits also exceeded our expectations. In addition to interesting augmented realty apps, we connected with the local technology community, made promising new business contacts, and even drew the attention of local mediaAnd we had a lot of fun.  

I’d also like to send a huge thanks to Michael Leyva, our UCLA MBA summer intern, for running the show!

Ever wonder what it takes to run a hackathon? Click on the image below for a complete infographic breakdown.

 

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