Smartphone screens have been getting bigger for some time, but how about viewing an Android OS as a 320-inch display? Epson’s surprise entry to the ‘wearable portable devices’, the Moverio BT-100, manages to achieve just that despite being no larger than a pair of 3DTV glasses. On sale this month in Japan, this 3D-capable contraption is destined for these shoes early in 2012 for a price of around €700 (approximately £600). Unlike Sony’s HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer, the BT-100 is transparent; this isn’t a portable home cinema that cuts-out reality, but rather something that could be worn while being entirely aware of what’s going on around you.
Sounds a bit Star Trek? Well, it is, though the BT-100 is quite clearly aimed at keeping us entertained on the move. The main unit, which is fairly comfortable to wear even after a reasonably long period (we managed over 30 minutes), has a slightly smoked-glass cover that can be removed, though doing so ruins the contrast of the massive image.
Separate earphones with short cables attach to 3.5mm jacks behind each arm, so in theory could be upgraded in future. That seems essential since airline cabins, where the BT-100 is ultimately destined for, demand noise-cancelling tech – though some more advanced earphones might work.
A thick cable from each side of the BT-100 trails down to a separate charger-cum-trackpad that’s about the size of a HTC Desire HD. It’s from here that the product gets both its six-hour battery life and its control, and it also plays host to a 1GB storage and a SD card slot (Epson budles a 4GB SD card). The product’s various cables and separate controller can make it a rather cumbersome contraption – no wonder there’s a solid, zip-up carry box.
The BT-100 runs a form of Android 2.2 OS, with a carousel of icons leading to areas for video (MPEG or H.264 filetypes dragged ‘n’ dropped from a PC via USB are presented as a stack) and photos (as thumbnails). It’s easy to use with the trackpad, though it’s not as sensitive as a touchscreen smartphone. Unfortunately we weren’t able to test the BT-100’s web-surfing capabilities on our pre-production unit, though we did find the virtual keyboard a tricky to use (though bookmarks are simple to create).
Mount the BT-100 on your head and what you see is a screen in the distance that appears to float over what’s actually around you. It’s a delightful experience, though there is the odd judder. Windows and pictures on walls get in the way, but it worked fine on the back of a seat; it’s certainly more impressive than an in-flight entertainment system – and you can still see the drinks trolley coming.
Though it should be a lifestyle product, this first-gen ‘media headset’ is cable-heavy and more suited to tech-minded travellers. If it’s aimed at frequent flyers, why the WiFi and poor sound quality? Otherwise, Epson has come up with an unusual Android device that host hugely enjoyable movies – welcome to the world of portable home cinema.