Video glasses were the sort of thing people born before 1990 may have once dreamt about as kids. Now they're here, and they're mostly hugely underwhelming. The Epson Moverio BT-100 is the first set from the printer and projector expert, with a view to making the ultra-niche gadget a little more popular. They don't succeed entirely, but they're among the best we've tested.
However, they will - as usual - make you look ridiculous. At 20cm wide, they stick out significantly from each side of your head. The design is less downright silly than the Vuzix Wrap 1200, which try to look like sunglasses, but you'll need the collective cojones of a small town to wear them out and about without feeling self-conscious.
However, they aren't meant to be worn in dark, private rooms but rather on long-haul flights. And so, unlike most video glasses efforts, they don't try to black out the outside world entirely - reducing potential for disorientation, nausea and missing the drinks trolley.
Instead, there's a translucent shade over the front of the glasses, to dim your surroundings. You can remove it, to make the world around you even clearer, but the shade also benefits image quality. The image is projected onto a "half mirror" layer right in front of each eye - and like any projector, the picture is hugely affected by ambient light levels.
As long as the lights are dimmed a bit beyond harsh office strip lighting, the Moverio BT-100 can muster a watchable image. It's not all produced by the glasses themselves, though.
This is a two-part setup, the glasses are joined by a control box just a little larger than an iPod Classic. This contains the brains of the operation along with a D-pad, further navigation buttons, and a touchpad surface for interacting with the interface. What will intrigue gadget fans is that this box runs Android rather than some restrictive custom user interface. This should open-up all sorts of fun potential, including web browsing and gaming on top of video-watching. More on that later.
The first hurdle to get over is the fit. The glasses weigh 273g, without control box. This doesn't sound like a lot, but it's enough to become a slightly uncomfortable burden during longer sessions, especially as it has a tendency to push down on your ears thanks to imperfect weight distribution. Epson has tried to mitigate for this with some ~1in pleather pads on the arms of the glasses, but it's not enough to completely remove discomfort.
The only fit customisation consists of three rubber nosepieces that slot into the front part of the glasses. We were able to attain a good fit easily enough, but these nose pieces fall out far too readily - causing a game of "chase the escapee nose holder" on more than one occasion.
In build and comfort, they improve on the experience offered by Vuzix's models. But that's not saying much, and the same old comfort issues arose here, just to a lesser degree.
Other than the video glasses, nose inserts and the Android-powered control box, the Moverio BT-100 come with a very sturdy carry case, power supply and a pair of low-rent earbuds that plug separately into the glasses' arms. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the control unit to let you plug-in your own headphones. However, thanks to the bulk of the set, over-ears headphones like the noise-cancelling Bose Quietcomfort 15 (a popular frequent flyer choice) are impossible to fit comfortably.