Thanks to Pete Wassell at Augmate and contributions from the companies who are the real veterans in head mounted displays, there was a very nice and informative showcase at the entrance to the Eureka Park in the Venetian.
I have personally been monitoring this sector for 15 years so this was a bit of a nostalgic experience for me. I was involved in the very early days with Reflection Technology who broke early ground. Then Microvision launched their Nomad product which sported a Virtual Retinal Display and in cooperation with Metaio, sold this into the automobile industry as a repair mechanic's aid.
If you think Google Glass is a breakthrough product you only have to look at what Vuzix (called Icuity then) and MicroOptical (myvu) launched in the late 1990's to see that this headworn display technology has been around for a while from these early innovators. The difference from then to now is that the belt or backpack worn PC that drove this is now completely headworn and in the case of the M100 from Vuzix, is a complete open platform Android OS device, so the Applications software can come from several sectors in parallel.
So the Journey from HMD's of 10+ years ago takes us right into a new era of Smart Glasses and Augmented Reality. Thank you Google for bringing this onto the radar screens of the potential user sectors. The Technology is now available and in the hands of developers!
Market researchers ABI predict that 2 million Smart Glasses type devices will be sold this year (2014). This seems a bit optimistic, but with Vuzix M100 commercially available now and Google Glass and Epson coming into general commercial availability in the next months it's at least a possibility from the supply side of the equation. This has never been the case before.
The next chapters in this story will be very interesting ones!
Virtual Reality, 3D, head tracking and HD video are coming now in smaller packages which are much more wearable. Whether laying back just watching a movie or especially when jumping around playing an action packed video game this is good news. The latest from Vuzix builds on many years of experience and delivers a comfortable large screen experience (stated by them as 55° FoV) and has head tracking, 720HD, 3D and compatibility with a large portfolio of games as with earlier models. Existing products (1200 series) available now, but the V720 coming in second half.
I saw and tried the Avegant Glyph at the press only Pepcom event. Reasonably nice unit, comfortable and the screen experience was okay, but couldn't focus my left eye so couldn't get the binocular image together. They said this was a problem with the prototype, but can't give this high marks without seeing the optics working properly. At this point it appears to be video viewing eyewear and not a VR games platform. Didn't get a clear idea of availability and what their initial products will be, but definitely one to watch. They are having a Show 'n Tell session in London next month, so I might get a better idea at that.
Sony showed a new HMD and it seemed to have all the bells and whistles, and must be considered a contender for many reasons. Not always easy to tell if this is a serious business initiative or an attention getter. As an attention getter it was a success for them at CES!
The one that gets the prize for bulky is the Oculus Rift. Every time I try one of these on I am amazed by the quality, but soon start feeling strange and have to take it off. I have yet to see anyone using these that wasn't holding on for dear life with two hands! The latest prototype that they showed that apparently do head tracking better (with an external camera) is even bigger.
everyone is excited, but it all reminds me of the 1990's! They seem to have gotten enough funding to get this right though.
Basically, if there is really a huge market for these they are on the right track, but unless they can connect with smartphones and do immersive 3D VR games I'm just not sure. They can of course do this for the video, but the head tracking and control channels are not yet standardised for this to happen soon. Come on Apple, get your API's in shape!
While strolling through the Gold Pavilion at CES I ran into this company called BarcodEye. They are writing Android Applications for the Vuzix M100 Smart glasses. This App simply takes to your line of sight the information associated with a barcode, QR code, etc. that the M100 camera picks up in your direction of glance.
Simple, but very effective way to read barcodes by just looking at them. Many applications which require hands to be free to do other tasks will benefit from these types of applications plugins. Since the M100 runs Android these can be easily adapted from Smartphone Apps or written from scratch.