Browsing the web on a smartphone is so yesterday; don’t you ever wish you could overlay what you see with a web browser – or even a 3D movie?
Epson is hoping that the illusion of a 50in projector screen in your field of vision will tempt business travellers, in particular, to its upcoming BT-100 headset. Selling in Japan this month, and bound for these shores in January for around the €700 mark, the BT-100 is very different to Sony’s rival HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer, not only in design, but in content, too.
It’s an open platform in every way; the BT-100 features a panel for each eye in a transparent plastic body. Don the BT-100 – which comes complete with integral earphones – and you’ll effectively see a bigscreen presentation that appears to be 80 to 100in in diameter, and about eight feet away; in short, it’s like being in a home cinema without the need for a screen, projector or sound system.
So why the transparent design? We’re not too sure, though it is covered by a darkened smoked shield that greatly increases contrast (this can be removed, but there’s no need).
There’s a significant problem in this approach, in that whatever you watch is overlaid on what is directly in front of you. If that’s a light-coloured wall or anything plain, it’s not an issue – there’s just enough brightness to cope with coloured surfaces, too – though windows can interrupt the clarity of the image.
Watching with the lights on is OK, although the BT-100 does behave best in dim surroundings, such as aircraft. Yes, the image will actually be overlaid on to the back of the seat in front of you – ironically, probably a built-in TV screen if you’re flying long-haul – but in anything less than the brightest conditions there’s no significant problem.
Where the BT-100 also comes up trumps is with comfort. Despite being a tad front-heavy, it’s much more comfortable to wear than Sony’s HMZ-T1, though they certainly won’t suit every head out there. Used for around 40 minutes we did start to feel it pull, though it’s so much easier on the neck muscles than a tablet or smartphone.
Sound from the BT-100′s built-in headphones is fine in a silent room, but may struggle in a noisy aircraft cabin. Happily, these earphones are detachable so can be upgraded, though that will add to the cables.
There’s something inherently familiar about the BT-100′s user interface. Although it’s a custom version we’ve not seen before, the headset runs on Android 2.2 Froyo, though it’s not possible to download apps.
The user interface is operated using a fairly sensitive, laptop-style and sized trackpad on a pocket-sized box that’s wired to the headset. This also acts as the BT-100′s (six-hour) battery, and is easy enough to use, though does add cables to the mix. In our test we managed to use the system while this box was attached to the mains, too, which is good news for travellers close to a power point.
The Android-based interface is easy to use, with all videos and photos viewable in a single folder behind a Gallery icon. Surfing the web (thanks to WiFi connectivity) lacks a decent virtual keyboard, but it’s also relatively easy to operate, especially once favourite sites have been set.
Content is limited to MPEG4 and H-264 videos (you’ll have to produce these files yourself; there’s no online store, or any DRM software for legal downloads). In our demo we watched an MPEG film and noticed the odd judder (maybe this was the encoding process) in a picture that was otherwise just about detailed enough (the BT-100 has only a ‘quarter’ HD resolution), and had plenty of colour and contrast.
The BT-100 already supplies a video feed to each eye individually, so jumping into side-by-side 3D view is easy pickings. However, 3D in our demo was about as impressive as on Sony’s HMZ-T1 – that is, not very. Little sense of depth is apparent. Still, it was clean and free from 3D video nasties.
Contact: Epson on 0871 4237766
- Involving cinema-like experience, peripheral vision, Android-based user interface.
- Quality of headphones, too many cables.
'See-through cinema' - it's a new one on us, though these generally impressive transparent video glasses do appear to lack the versatility required by travellers. The Android-based GUI is excellent, but for now the BT-100 is best viewed as a DIY home cinema for travellers, though only for those prepared to convert their own video files.