The idea of remote assistant apps in augmented reality has been taking off in the last couple of years, but Epson is introducing a differing kind of solution for companies that may benefit from a more straightforward dynamic before going full-on immersive with higher-end AR remote assistance tools.
On Thursday, Epson released Moverio Assist, a new software tool that utilizes existing smartglasses from the company to provide a quick and easy way to deploy remote assistance for teams in the enterprise space, small startups, and regular consumers as well.
The software, which runs on either the Moverio BT-350 or Moverio BT-300 — both of which use a small hip-mounted computing module with a touchpad controller — allows the user to maintain an audio link with a remote expert or team member while that remote team member sends annotated visual instructions and even video.
Unlike solutions available on the HoloLens, the Epson software tool doesn't allow the wearer to interact with virtual content or annotate real-world objects for the remote viewer to see. Instead, the visual instruction is a one-way street, coming from the remote team member using a desktop or laptop computer (PC or Mac) to work with the wearer via the aforementioned visual assets or through text messages.
That connection also happens via two-way audio as long as the device wearer connects either a Bluetooth headset with a built-in microphone or a 3.5mm wired headset with a built-in microphone. Additionally, the wearer can take and send photos from the smartglasses to the remote user operating the software on a Chrome or Firefox browser.
I had some time to test the system out before its release, and it presents a surprisingly robust alternative to the more immersive remote assistance tools I've used. The audio is clear and real-time, and the annotated imagery and videos are transmitted rapidly (depending on the speed of the Wi-Fi or fixed internet connections used by the team members) and show up clearly and unobtrusively in your field of view.
The way Epson is rolling the system out is via a paid time model, with prices starting at $29.99 per month for 600 minutes (larger packages will be available for 1,200 minutes and 2,400 minutes per month).
And since the set-up and usage of the system requires pretty much no training, when combined with the Moverio BT-300 ($699) or Moverio BT-350 Smart Glasses ANSI Z87.1 Edition ($1,199), the package might be a more viable option for companies not willing or able to commit to a pricier Magic Leap or HoloLens-level system and software.
Epson will launch the software and service, which will be available to the public via retailers including Best Buy, Staples, Amazon, and others, in September.