New Wearable Tech, New Problems

Sara Peters, Editor in Chief | 5/7/2014 | 55 comments

Sara Peters
There's a new player in the wearable technology market. While it has a new attitude and a new business plan, it also seems to have new problems that may cause it to miss the mark and the market.

Yesterday Epson announced the commercial availability of its Moverio BT-200 smart glasses. The Moverios are absolutely the principal competitor to Google Glass, but they're aimed squarely at the business market, not the consumer market.

One of my main quarrels with wearable technology of all kinds, and Google Glass in particular, is that it's usually hideous. Google has been addressing that fashion problem by teaming up with top designers to create glasses that look good, but as I've said before, I still wouldn't be caught dead in them.

Epson is simply avoiding the style problem by creating glasses that are meant to be worn someplace where you don't need to look your best -- like a factory or a lab. From the press release:

    [Augmented reality] smart glasses can improve worker efficiency in vertical markets such as healthcare, logistics, field service, energy, manufacturing, education, retail, and more. Developers such as APX Labs and Metaio are already working with Epson and enterprises to incorporate the Moverio BT-200 smart glasses’ “see-through” augmented reality technology to allow for use cases such as retail and wholesale supply chain tracking, surgical training for doctors in the operating room, and remote field service support for complex repair assistance.

By ignoring the consumer market, Epson is smartly both avoiding one of wearables' biggest problems and differentiating itself from Google. Further, while Google Glass's $1,500 price tag is suitable for a luxury item, the Moverio BT-200's $700 price is a bit easier to get past a CFO. Unfortunately, the Moverio glasses have a different problem: They need to be plugged in -- not to a wall outlet, thankfully, but they do need to be plugged into an Android phone.

On its own that's not a dreadful inconvenience. Workers can clip their phones to their belts or slip one in a pocket. If Epson modified the Moverios so that they could communicate with phones via Bluetooth, that would eliminate the need for annoying wires. However, the phone isn't just used to power the glasses. It's used to operate the glasses' features. In other words, you still need your hands.

It's a bit of a stretch to consider these glasses solely "wearable," because to use them you still need to carry a handheld mobile device. Since you'll need to operate them with your fingers, it will still be messy to try to use the glasses when you're a mechanic covered in grease or a surgeon covered in blood. Still, if you are a mechanic or a surgeon, and being covered in grease and blood isn't going to stop you from using computer equipment, then the Moverio glasses might be far preferable to a laptop, tablet, or projector.

Further, industries could take advantage of the Android connection by building custom apps for the Moverios. Nevertheless, it seems that at the moment, the fashionable smart glasses fall short on fashion and the useful smart glasses fall short on utility.

How might your organization use smart glasses for business purposes? Does the smaller price point make the Moverios more attractive to your company than Google Glass? Is the need to control the glasses with an Android device less of a hassle than I imagine? Let us know in the comments below.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 6   >   >>
singlemud   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/30/2014 9:32:37 AM
Re: Gimmick
good to see the price is dropping
vnewman   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/19/2014 8:04:33 PM
Re: Gimmick
And now there is this to worry about: If you don't stop, you'll go blind...
kstaron   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/16/2014 12:32:53 PM
That seems more like a gimmick than a real innovation. If I still need to use my hands why not use the screen on the phone? the glasses are superfluous at that point. Now i could see the potential within th work environment for smart glasses, but those need to keep your hands free to really change how a company does business.
freespiritny25   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/15/2014 2:35:56 PM
Re: Not ready for the market
I will also wait for the prices to go down.
Nomi   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/15/2014 2:29:57 PM
Re: Not ready for the market
@Stotheco I am also pumped up with the advertised features of the product and consider it as a must have but still go with the wait n see policy. I will need a bit more time to know the working of the product after its launch as well as others specifications.  I think to make it affordable to large community customized version will be the best solution.
Nomi   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/15/2014 2:24:03 PM
Re: Not ready for the market
@Technocrat i agree with you there. I am not sure that this price tag will go down good with consumers. I thought that 250-300 $ may be a good offering. Now most people like me will have to wait a bit longer to convince the price corresponding to its features.
zerox203   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/15/2014 1:07:31 PM
Re: Not ready for the market
@Susan Fourtane/angelfuego,

Thanks for sharing all that pricing information, Susan! For something as highly publicized as Google Glass, I feel like a lot of us are still mostly in the dark when it comes to the details. A lot of the reporting focuses on the big headlines, the privacy issues, and (As Sara points out) the wearability implications. That's all well and good, but as a tech junkie, I'd like to know a little more about the hardware, the price, the longterm plans, etc. - so again, thanks for sharing!

As for that $600 price point relative to laptop, tablets, and smartphones, it does raise a lot of interesting questions about how we define 'value' and where smart glasses are going to fit into all this. How much would I pay for a smartphone? 200? 300? So, is Google Glass worth 2-3 times as much as a smartphone? Well... I can see how it could be. I can see how it costs 2-3 times as much for Google to make as a phone with similar specs... but that doesn't mean it's worth that much to me. It has to do something (a lot of somethings, at that price tag) that my phone can't (period), and I'm just not sure that it ever will.
Susan Fourtané   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/15/2014 4:53:44 AM
Re: Not ready for the market

Yes, more in the price range of many. The fuctions are closer to a smartphone, not to a laptop, so in that sense it makes more sense to be in also closer in price to a smartphone. 

Guess what? I just read that the Explorer program is now open to anyone in the US at the same $1,500. But, as for what I read about the $600 that is supposed to be after all the Beta things. So just wait. :/

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Technocrat   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/14/2014 8:40:08 PM
Re: Not ready for the market

@angelfuego    I am with you - at 600.00 I will wait as well - looks like this will take as long as it took to finally be able to afford a quality laptop.   But I am patient, and this is no "must have" in my book.

Technocrat   New Wearable Tech, New Problems   5/14/2014 8:37:39 PM
Re: Not ready for the market

We probably could use glasses to promote a virtual world, but that is honestly an extra that time and resources won't permit.

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