Epson BT-200 review: augmented reality is getting … somewhere

A small robot floated in my vision and asked a simple question: Where would I like to go?

His name was Sparky, and he was developed especially for the Epson Moverio BT-200 augmented reality glasses I was wearing by a team of students at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. He quickly provided me details about a coffee shop down the block. If I’d stood up, he could have led me all the way there with turn-by-turn directions.


It’s a futuristic version of augmented reality, one where your headset interacts with the real world as it changes around you and (supposedly) improves your productivity and well-being through information and companionship. Researchers are certainly working toward that goal. But, for today, we have the BT-200s.

They are are the subtlest, most polished AR option yet, but they still look straight out of a bad 1980s movie. If you think Google Glass makes people look like a dork, keep away from augmented reality.

The entire industry is in a sort of stepping-stone phase right now. It’s evident in every piece of the BT-200s’ design, from its handheld trackpad to its icon- and cursor-based menu. It feels very familiar, but at the expense of totally diving into the future of augmented reality.

Epson's BT-200 smart glasses and their handheld controller.

Epson’s BT-200 smart glasses and their handheld controller.

Like most of the rest of the augmented reality industry, Epson is focused on the enterprise. The BT-200 was designed for people who need to call up information in the field; places where a laptop or tablet would be too cumbersome or fragile to take along.

The glasses feel relatively light and comfortable. Without any kind of fine tuning for my vision, I quickly felt my eyes grow strained each time I wore them.

No one can provide true augmented reality at the moment, which would be capable of placing virtual images anywhere in your field of view. Instead, Epson hovers a rectangular screen over your vision. From 10 feet away, it was almost exactly the same size as my 42-inch television.

Booting up the glasses brings you to a menu filled with icons. You drag your finger over the handheld trackpad to move a cursor, and a tap generates a click. The trackpad was responsive, and I didn’t have any problem scrolling and clicking. I actually preferred it to the less-than-mature hand tracking other augmented reality companies are using.

Current apps range from virtual reality games where you shoot robots to guides for putting together Legos. A big test in the augmented reality world right now is the lag in an image. If a virtual version of a clock I am fixing is plastered over the real clock, does it stay in place on top of the real clock when I quickly move my head? Epson’s glasses had a slight lag before the virtual image popped back into place.

Augmented reality is not ready for consumers yet. But for enterprise and industrial applications, the BT-200 is a solid choice. Its screen looks nice, it pulls up information in a timely manner and in your free time you have your pick of killer robot games.