February 20, 2017 - No Comments!

Second Sight: Moving to Vuzix Smart Glasses

Death of Google Glass

We’d been pinning our hopes for quite some time on Google creating a new production version of Google Glass. However, for unknown reasons they appear to have parked the Glass project. Glass formed the centrepiece of our Second Sight prototype system, providing a hands-free visual aid with which we could display and record live information for workers in harsh, nuclear decommissioning, conditions. The aim of the system is simple: reduce working time in the field with smart technology and reduce exposure to radiation.

Finding a Replacement

So what did we turn to next? We attended VR & AR World London 2016 to see what was being showcased there and found two potential suppliers: Vuzix and Epson. The Epson Moverio Pro BT-2000 was a nice piece of kit but was difficult to wear with a full-face respirator. This left us with Vuzix who had two types of smart glasses we could use: the M100 and M300. The M300 is their latest offering and looked very powerful: Android 6, large bright screen, very solid looking. However, only the M100 (the older predecessor) was available off the shelf at that moment so we thought we’d give it a shot.

Using the Vuzix M100

In essence, it’s an Android device running 4.0 with it’s major limitation being a lack of touchscreen (obviously!) However, it did offer gesture and voice control, rather like Google Glass. Creating apps for the Vuzix M100 was straightforward using their SDK and we had something up and running very quickly. Within a couple of months we had all our desired features in place:
•    Live video streamed from the M100 for monitoring and backup
•    Two-way audio channel between the M100 and the out-cell controller
•    Video stream from an external source to the M100 (either to provide support or to mirror other information to the field operator)
•    Configurable job instructions that could be browsed in the field (without a data connection)

We also built the system such that it could be voice-operated or driven from a command console out-cell by support staff, again relieving the operator from the need to perform certain functions in a difficult environment.

A Brief Review

So, what do we like about the Vuzix M100:
•    Quick and easy to get apps up and running.
•    Nice bright display.
•    Very adjustable and can be worn and operated in conjunction with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
•    Hardware buttons for navigation and control.
•    Varied assortment of peripherals for wearing the headset.

Criticisms, we have a few…
•    Switching voice commands ON/OFF was temperamental.
•    Gesture control was clunky (we switched it off).
•    Audio seems too quiet (we solved this by pairing with some Bluetooth earphones).
•    A little underpowered with Android 4.

Criticisms aside, it’s still a great piece of kit and moved us much further forward than if we’d stuck with Google Glass. We’re really looking forward to getting hold of the M300 as we think this version will resolve many of the above issues and is much more powerful.

We’re hoping to see our system go live at Sellafield in the coming weeks and we’ll be reporting on this as and when we can!

Published by: Nick Whitehead in Mobile Technology, New Technology

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