I blink, but to no avail. I still see ten Isabelles merrily talking about ceiling patterns and artwork. Is this real life, or is this just fantasy?
Am I hallucinating? Not at all. What I’ve done is put on a pair of Epson’s Moverio BT-300 smart glasses, described to be the world’s lightest binocular see-through smart glasses on the market with an OLED display.
Eight BT-300s are currently being used in a pilot project collaboration between Epson and SO Sofitel Singapore, meant to enhance guest experiences at the boutique hotel through the usage of augmented reality (AR). By putting on the smart glasses, guests will be able to embark on an AR tour, SO Augmented, of the hotel.
The BT-300 has much to offer: running on Android 5.1, the smart glasses utilise Si-OLED technology that offers up to 1.8 times more resolution and 1.6 times more colour space than its predecessor, the BT-200.
According to Siew Jin Kiat, Epson’s Printer & Visual Products Division General Manager, the OLED technology in these glasses “increases the brightness… Sometimes when (the environment is) too bright it’s hard to see the image, so the OLED kind of overcomes this difficulty.”
Siew also testifies towards the lightness of the glasses: “There was some feedback previously on the previous product, on discomfort after wearing it for certain periods of time. But I think with the new glasses, they’re pretty light and people can wear it for more extended periods of time.”
The glasses work by detecting set markers, which then trigger audio and video content when the glasses recognise the markers. “The narration and content is already pre-loaded, and the moment the logic has been built for that and once the glasses recognises what image you’re looking at, the content plays. So that is the integration which we do on our software piece.” says Sridhar Sunkad, Managing Director for EON Reality.
For Sunkad, the user experience provided by the glasses runs on three key components: the storyboard, video content and marker. “ Once we define the user experience, going back to the content and tweaking the content is more of a production process, but zeroing in on the user experience is the biggest time frame. I would say content production takes about less than two weeks, but it’s zeroing in on the storyboard to see what sort of user experience we want that is very important.”
Certain challenges faced in the making of the BT-300 included the limited view that was provided in the glasses. “There was some technical integration work that needed to be done, and also resizing of the content, and when we go into these sort of markers, seeing straight through is much easier for the calibration of the glasses than looking at an angle. So there is a bit of a limitation in how we view through the glasses, but we were able to overcome all that.”
The glasses are currently programmed to recognise four markers in the hotel – a cube in the lobby, a picture near the reception counter, and two art pieces in the So Lofty suite. However, there is a pronounced difference between some of the triggered content. For example, the video content triggered by the cube in the lobby can be viewed even when the user looks away from marker, but the content triggered by the image near the reception counter requires the user to look through the glasses at a certain angle to be able to view the content.
Sunkad explains, “How you tap into the marker is very important. With the cubical shape, even if you move around it there’s still another edge, which is still capturing and giving you the reference. Even if you see around it, you’ll still have the field of view’s points out, because the field of view is quite wide. But that is not the case in the flat surfaces. Even if you look around, the marker is only flat and that is why we may not be able to see the content.”
Regardless of the BT-300’s current limitations, Siew is confident that smart glasses will only become more popular. “In the next one to two years we will see that turning point where this adoption will increase. I think in many industrial applications this will start to happen, especially in companies doing remote repair work.”
“I think that’s going to be quite a major application, and then in the B2B2C space like this we think some new areas where things will start to happen, like in Italy there are already a couple of museums that are already utilising this product for walkthroughs. So we expect the adoption to start to increase for these areas.”
The pilot project will run until the end of the year. Members of the public will have access to the AR tour within the hotel lobby, while guests will have access to the tours both within the lobby and in the So Lofty suite.