Epson, one of the technology companies supporting Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team, used the Melbourne Grand Prix to showcase several cutting-edge technologies that are breaking into the mainstream.

Chief among them were its Movevio BT-300 smart glasses ($1149), which are thinner, lighter and cheaper than competitors like Magic Leap's Lightwear and Microsoft's HoloLens in the augmented reality (AR) market.

Epson's Moverio BT-300 smart glasses. Photo / Chris Keall.
Epson's Moverio BT-300 smart glasses. Photo / Chris Keall.

AR is a complementary technology to the all-encompassing virtual reality (VR). AR headsets let you still see the world around you while hologram-style images appear to float in the air, super-imposed on everyday life.

Epson Australasia executive Bruce Bealby readily concedes that it's still very early days for AR hardware. He compares it to the initial release of the iPhone, when there was only a trickle of apps before the eventual flood.

Advertisement

But even at this point, some interesting apps are starting to emerge.

An early hit has been a Moverio app that lets you use the smart glasses to control a drone - seeing both controls, and a first-person view of the stream from its camera. Check out a demo in the clip above.

It's got a definite hey-wow futuristic feel, but Bealby also points out there's a practical advantage: the Moverio app lets you see the actual drone as well as the AR graphics - in keeping with the legal requirement to maintain line-of-sight.

Using Moverio BT-300 smart glasses for controlling a drone - and getting a bird's eye view from its camera.
Using Moverio BT-300 smart glasses for controlling a drone - and getting a bird's eye view from its camera.

Epson's app for DJI drones is free. It's available here, plus a list of other AR apps available so far.

Bealby says early applications for AR include museum tours, where Morevio smart glasses take the place of rented ear-phones (again, see the clip) and warehouses where an AR overlay can show the location of stock.

"In Japan much bigger consumer market, with movies and e-books. You on the train with your Morevio glasses on connected to YouTube without being completely closed in."

And at a Mercedes showroom in Melbourne ahead of the Grand Prix, the Epson exec showed off a new, Morevio app made by local developer Appearition which lets a customer see an exploded diagram of a car's engine without opening the bonnet, see an AR overlay that explains every widget on the dashboard, or choose between different colours with a swipe as they see a virtual version of a vehicle hanging in the air over the real thing.

Look ma, no bulb

Mercedes Melbourne is also utilising Epson's 2000-lumen WXGA LightScene EV-100, which works as either a projector or a spotlight.

This compact, laser installation projector, which sells for around $2000, was used at the F1 event for an eye-catching lightshow, using the car maker's iconic logo as the screen (see clip below).

For all the futuristic gadgetry, perhaps the most appealing product on display was one of the latest models in Epson's EcoTank line.

Anyone who's bought a colour inkjet printer over the past few years will know the usual drill.

The printer has an astonishingly low up-front price. But the catch is that it comes with what are known as "starter cartridges" - or, in plain English, cartridges with stuff-all ink.

You'll soon be back at the store, paying an astonishingly high price for replacement cartridges.

Epson's EcoTank.
Epson's EcoTank.

Epson says the EcoTank, by contrast will print 14,000 pages black or more than 11,000 colour pages before you need to go back to the well. That's the equivalent 30 ink cartridge sets.