Today, Epson announced both the availability of their Moverio BT-350 ANSI Edition augmented reality glasses and the release of Skylight on Moverio AR devices. We sat down with Eric Mizufuka, Product Manager for the Moverio business and Jay Kim, Upskill’s Chief Strategy Officer to talk about the history of our partnership with Epson, and what the launch of these new smart glasses means for enterprises looking to adopt AR.
Epson and Upskill have been in this business for some time. Take us back to when it all started.
Eric: Jay reached out to our team just shortly after we released the first Moverio product in the US. That was over 6 years ago, at CES.
Jay: At that time, we were exclusively developing military applications since there was no viable market for smart glasses outside of the government. Epson Moverio BT-100 was the first commercially available see-through wearable displays–they weren’t yet smart glasses–anywhere in the world. This was the first sign that we can begin executing on our vision to enable AR for the enterprise, which is Skylight’s sole target today. We actually bought our first set by importing one using a grey market reseller from Japan since they weren’t yet available stateside. Even after paying the fees, we got them for less than $1,000, which was mind-blowing to us. The smart glasses we were then working with cost tens of thousands of dollars apiece.
Eric: It was the first time I had met with a company–then known as APX Labs–that had a very firm vision of what problems smart glasses can solve and how to get there.
The partnership was formally announced with the launch of the second generation Moverio, the BT-200. What went into getting that product to market?
Eric: The Upskill team made it clear that in order to deliver to enterprise, they needed things like a head tracker, a camera, and even a mic. They made the request to the Moverio team to make these kinds of changes to ensure the BT-200 would be viable for industrial applications. Jay and his team built prototypes using the BT-100 to really help us shape the product and hardware strategy.
Jay: I think the extent to which we modified the BT-100 represents the excitement that we had in the potential of what could be next. We made videos and showcased different demos that allowed for early adopters to understand how these kinds of devices could really impact operations. We then took these demos to Google I/O in 2012 to show the realm of possibilities of what smart glasses should be, and that was certainly a milestone moment for both businesses.
Eric: Two years later, Upskill became a featured developer for the launch of the BT-200. The hardware we put to market was essentially a shrunken down version of Upskill’s prototype functioning as an integrated device. It was the first model in which Epson started to generate interest for enterprise applications.
Jay: The step up from the BT-100 to 200 was really the transition from a device that was a wearable video viewer to an application driven device for broader use of augmented reality. We look at it as the first generally available smart glasses devices that were suited towards enterprise applications. Lots of excitement came about, and the release of these devices generated Upskill’s first real pilot opportunities.
Take us to modern day: In what ways does this new Moverio BT-350 ANSI Edition really amp things up for enterprises?
Eric: There were a number of important product enhancements we introduced with the BT 350 to address enterprise needs. First, we updated the device fit with a hinge-based temple design to support a broader range of headsizes, added multi-device management set up–critical to IT departments–and provided support for a number of accessories that are important for enterprise environments. Now with the new Moverio BT-350 ANSI Edition, we introduce new indoor and outdoor safety shields that meet ANSI Z87.1 safety certification requirements. We also added a clip on shade for additional eye protection with increased coverage. Together, these enhancements address a much broader spectrum of the requirements to suit enterprises at scale.
Jay: Bottom line, the BT-350 ANSI Edition gives our customers more options. From aerospace to chemical processing plants, rated eye protection is mandatory for people to even step onto the shop floor. The BT-350 offers the best optical clarity of any device on the market. Adding that to environments where workers also have certain requirements in terms of the eye protection they need to wear, it’s a big deal.