Introduction & Design
Fancy Wearing a 320-inch Display on Your Head?
Over here at HardwareZone and HWM, we’ve reviewed our fair share of Epson products, though admittedly, they were mostly printers and projectors. A major integrated circuits and LCD components maker (and supplier), the Japan company has in recent times churned out other gadgets like a GPS running monitor and a see-through wearable display, and the latter of which is what we’re taking a closer look in this review. Called the Moverio BT-100, it's a head-mounted display with see-through lenses. You can watch movies, listen to music, surf the Internet, and even play games on it. But before you ditch your plan to wait for the Google Glass and buy the BT-100 instead, read on as we detail our intimate experience with it.
The first thing we noticed when we took the BT-100 see-through mobile viewer (that’s what Epson calls it) out of the box was its heft. A quick check of the specifications sheet revealed that it tips the scale at 240g. By comparison, a pair of prescription glasses with plastic frames normally doesn’t go above 40g, and 3D glasses for 3D TVs these days aren’t any heavier either. But to be fair, the BT-100 headset contains way more electronic components. Details on how the headset works will be covered in detail within the performance segment on the following page.
While the headset is well put together, the plasticky feel is unmistakable. Since it’s an easy target for facial oils, you might want to have a piece of wiping cloth within easy reach. Perhaps knowing that bringing the bulky BT-100 (and its accessories) out and about can be a hassle, Epson has thrown in a large, semi-hard case that’s almost as big as the packaging box.
The headset itself has a cord that comes down at each end of the temple. The two cords come together at about the halfway mark of the 1.2m cable at the clip-on, inline remote control; a single, thicker cord then continues on, and ends with a connector that goes into a port at the bottom of a separate control box. Obviously, we'd have preferred a thinner cord, but remember, this isn't just a earphone cord, it also carries video and control signals from the controller to the headset.
Like any spectacles, the headset is supported by a pad on the bridge of the nose and the temples that are placed over the ears. Most of the electronics are housed toward the front of the temple arms, so the spring hinges are located somewhere along the middle. To wear the headset, just open the padded arms, and slide them over your ears. There’s a switch near each hinge that you use to adjust (there are three settings) how wide an arm opens up. Three nose pads of different sizes are also provided. Two detachable and adjustable clips on the arms are used to support the BT-100 if you’re wearing it over your own glasses.
Overall, the fit is decent. In this reviewer’s case, the majority of the weight lay on the nose bridge. And while the temples did sit atop the ears (which didn’t feel very comfortable either due to the former’s thickness and weight), it was the tension of the hinged arms that kept the headset from shifting around. When removing the headset, the nose pad also had a tendency to fall off as it brushed against the face. Of course, your mileage may vary.
The Indispensable Controller
The other essential component of the BT-100 is the controller, since the headset doesn’t have any controls on it. In addition, the headset draws power from this controller (Epson claims six hours of continuous video playback), so good luck if you forgot to pack it in the carrying case when you left the house.
Shaped like a portable media player, the all-black controller is used for navigating the user interface and the apps of the Android-powered (Android 2.2 Froyo, to be exact) mobile viewer. For those familiar with the Google's mobile OS, the controller has the three standard Android buttons, namely: Home, Menu, and Back. Besides those, there's a four-way directional pad with an Enter button in the middle, and other keys like 2D/3D and Brightness, whose functions are pretty self-explanatory. The Power button (for both the headset and controller) resides right at the top, and the Volume keys and Lock switch are on the right hand side. As you can see from the picture below, a trackpad dominates the top half of the controller. When you touch the trackpad, a blue circular cursor will appear on the screen (which is viewed through the headset). It works pretty much like the trackpad found on laptops: to click on an item, move the cursor over it and tap the trackpad.
The BT-100 comes with 1GB of internal memory, but you can expand the storage via the microSD card slot located at the left hand side of the controller. microSDHC cards up to 32GB in capacity can be used. A 4GB card is supplied.