SAN FRANCISCO — Here at Google I/O, you can’t walk five feet without seeing someone wearing Glass, but Google’s AR headset isn’t the first nor is it the most immersive product on the market. Today, representatives from Epson and APX labs demonstrated a modified version of Epson’s Moverio BT-100 wearable display, which allows the users to navigate through a YouTube video wall, just by moving their heads. We had a chance to go heads-on with the device and were impressed with its potential.
The Moverio BT-100 wearable display has been on the market for over a year now, but APX labs, a company that makes augmented reality applications for vertical markets and the government, added a 5-MP camera, microphone and gyro sensor. APX also installed its YouTube application on the wearable display to show what its Skylight wearable application platform is capable of.
When we tried on the device, the first thing we noticed is that, unlike Google Glass, the Moverio has a display for each eye and places those displays directly in front of your eyes, not below or above your field of view. The displays are both qHD (960 x 540), but an Epson rep said that looking at them up close is the equivalent of viewing an 80-inch TV. In our brief hands-on, the Moverio’s display was very translucent, making it easy to see real-world objects in front of us a little difficult to view the actual videos in great detail. Users with better eyesight will probably find it easier.
The software showed us a YouTube video wall, complete with thumbnails for different clips. As we our head left or right , the wall scrolled in that direction, allowing us to see more thumbnails. To select a video, we had to tilt our head up or down and watch as the software slowly drew a redbox around the selected thumbnail. If we moved our head while the box was still drawing, we could keep navigating around the video wall. If we waited for the box to draw, the video would start playing full screen.
While a video was playing, we could pause by tilting our head upward and then resume play by lowering our head and tilting upward again. We could also make the video fast forward or rewind by tilting our head to the left or right. To return to the video wall, we had to tap the right side of the Moverio BT-100 twice. Though bulky, the device was extremely responsive to our head movements.
Interesting as this demo is the companies aren’t marketing the YouTube player or the hacked-together heads-up display we tried on. They are simply hoping to attract more customers in vertical markets where APX is selling its solution to everyone from manufacturers that need a training device to first-responders who need information about an emergency overlayed on their field of view.
APX says that, according to its research, head movement navigation like the kind we experienced is one of the best ways to control a heads-up display. We hope to see other devices that incorporate these kinds of gestures in the future.