Hands on: Epson BT-300

Epson peers into the future with the BT-300 augmented reality headset

Augmented reality is in its infancy – experts believe virtual reality will be the big thing over the next few years, and augmented reality will take over after that. That’s not stopping Epson from banking on augmented reality now, however.

The company unveiled its Moverio BT-300 AR headset back in February, and the device recently made its way to North America. Epson understands that AR isn’t likely to take off for a few years, but it still thinks it can offer some pretty great experiences in the meantime.

We had the opportunity to try out the BT-300 headset at Augmented World Expo 2016, and jumped at the chance to jump into a whole new reality. Will Epson’s newest product soar or flop?

Design and comfort

It’s clear Epson has put a lot of effort into refining the headset since releasing the BT-200 back in 2014. The newer device is a lot less bulky, much thinner, and in general simply looks a lot better. No, it still doesn’t look like something you would wear all day every day, but it looks better than its predecessors.

Epson BT 300
Christian De Looper/Digital Trends
Christian De Looper/Digital Trends

The BT-300 has two displays which merge into the glass portion of the glasses. In other words, with the displays off you won’t be able to tell that there are displays there at all – they’re invisible.

The product comes in two parts: There are the glasses themselves, of course, and a controller, which features a touchpad and Android buttons since the device runs Android 5.1. Because of the Android buttons, it’s easy to get used to the controller and there isn’t much of a learning curve, especially if you’re an Android smartphone user.

AR is the natural progression away from our smartphone.

Epson touts the BT-300 as its lightest and sleekest AR glasses to date, and it shows. I was only able to wear them for a few minutes, but I could easily imagine wearing them for longer – they’re very light. The temples of the glasses aren’t too tight or bulky, and they fit snuggly on the head. Perhaps this would change after wearing the glasses for long periods of time, but for a short amount of time they work fine.

While the glasses are lighter than other AR headsets, there’s still room for improvement. We’re excited to see AR glasses become even lighter and sleeker in the future; hopefully one day we’ll peer through AR glasses that are indistinguishable from normal eyeglasses.

Display, processor, and more

As mentioned, the display really fades into the glass on the glasses, and it’s a great-looking display too. While the BT-200 featured a 960 × 540 pixel display, the BT-300 kicks things up to 1,280 × 720 — that’s 720p — and it uses OLED technology, making images pop with far more color than the LCD screen on the BT-200 could.

It’s important to note that while the 720p display does look quite good, there is room for improvement. When a display is this close to your eyes, it’s far easier to notice the pixels. We would have liked to see a display of at least 1080p, which obviously would take up more battery life. We’re guessing that’s what stopped Epson from including one here.

Epson BT 300
Christian De Looper/Digital Trends
Christian De Looper/Digital Trends

Apart from the display, the BT-300 shows a clear progression from the BT-200. The device is powered by an Intel Atom X5 processor, and, as mentioned, runs Android 5.1. This means developers can create Android apps for the BT-300. In fact, many already work, as long as they can run in landscape mode.

The BT-300 also features a 5MP camera and a battery said to last 6 hours on a single charge. I wasn’t able to put that battery life to the test, so we’ll have to wait and see how true that really is.

Why would I want an AR headset?

Let’s be clear – the BT-300 looks better than its predecessors, but it doesn’t look great. Sure, it’s sleek compared to other AR headsets on the market, but you’re probably not going to want to walk around the street wearing the BT-300.

The BT-300 is a solid step forward for Epson’s AR headset line.

Epson gets this. I had a chat with Eric Mizufuka, Product Manager of AR at Epson, who told me it would be weird for people to be walking around with their BT-300 all the time. Instead, the device is targeted at specific uses, whether that be business (imagine doctors doing surgery or mechanics fixing cars) or entertainment — movies, games, and so on.

So why not just use VR for these things? Good question. Mizufuka suggested that AR is a natural progression away from our smartphone. Instead of looking down at our phones while we’re crossing the road, we’ll be able to look straight ahead, read notifications and emails, and still see where we’re going. Virtual reality would enmesh us entirely. He’s right – AR does have more potential, when seen through that lens.

Conclusions

The BT-300 shows clear improvements in Epson’s AR headset line, and certainly left me excited for the future of augmented reality. The display is nice, despite needing a higher resolution, and the device overall is comfortable and light, despite still needing a big controller connected through a wire.

AR is obviously still in its infancy, however. In a perfect world this gadget would be far lighter, with a higher resolution display and no wires involved. The BT-300 probably won’t bring AR into the mainstream, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

The device will be available later this fall, and will cost between $700 and $800.

Highs

  • Sleek design
  • Nice-looking display
  • Runs Android

Lows

  • Still has wires
  • A little low-res
  • Not for the fashion-conscious

Pre-order at Epson

Product Review

With the cord-free Quest, Oculus finally makes high-quality VR easy

Oculus announced that its Project Santa Cruz virtual reality headset will ship next year as the Oculus Quest, and we got to try out several new game titles on the Quest. Find out our impressions of VR without wires.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Deals

Verizon’s buy one, get one offer is the best deal on the new Google Pixel 3

If you need a new smartphone and want the best (without shelling out a grand or more), the new Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are fantastic options. Verizon's BOGO offer is the best way to score a deal, letting you snag a free phone and save…
Mobile

Which Verizon plan is best for you? We check out family, individual, and prepaid

Verizon offers lots of plans for individuals, your family, and folks who want prepaid service. Here is everything you need to know about Verizon's plans, from data packages and smartphones to Big Red's prepaid plans.
Mobile

The best Pixel 3 screen protectors to keep your phone Pixel perfect

The Pixel 3 is equipped with the hottest hardware and a beautiful 5.5-inch P-OLED display protected by Gorilla Glass 5. But it's not invincible. Here are the best Pixel 3 screen protectors to keep it safe.
Gaming

The best HTC Vive games available today

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Virtual Reality

The Oculus Quest’s competitor isn’t Rift or Vive. It’s the Nintendo Switch

While Oculus is optimistic that its standalone Quest VR headset will deliver a quality experience, the headset was designed on a mobile chipset. That means its less of a Rift replacement and more like the VR equivalent of Nintendo’s…
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Virtual Reality

The Oculus Quest and Go both let you play without a PC, but which is better?

The mid-range of virtual reality hardware is by far the most competitive, with Oculus VR now offering two excellent products to those with more limited budgets. We pitted the Oculus Quest vs. Oculus Go, to see which is best.
Computing

The Oculus Quest is the new kid on the block, but can it beat the Rift?

The Oculus Rift has been available for two year, and the Oculus Quest will be available near the start of the next, but which one is best for you? That depends on the power of your gaming PC.
Gaming

Still confused about how the Oculus Quest works? Here's the scoop

Oculus' Quest looks to offer PC-quality VR without the need for a PC. From revamped Oculus Touch controls to its sleek design, here's everything we know about the next-gen headset.
Gaming

From horror to first-person shooters, these are the best games in VR

Whether you own a PlayStation VR, and Oculus Rift, or an HTC Vive, you have a ton of different choices when it comes to games. These are 15 of the best virtual reality games available right now.
Emerging Tech

No longer a gaming novelty, VR gets acceptance letter from Arizona State

Students at Arizona State University are getting an unexpected added extra for their tuition money this semester: A virtual reality headset for their course. Here's how it's going to be used.
Social Media

3D Facebook photos jump out of the newsfeed, no glasses needed

You're not seeing things -- that photo in your Facebook newsfeed is 3D. Launching today, 3D Facebook Photos use the depth maps from dual-lens smartphones to add dimension to an image as you move your phone.