The future is here: Wearable electronics go on display at Tokyo trade show


Staff Writer

From glasses to wristbands and clothing, firms representing a variety of industries began showcasing their wearable electronic devices at a Tokyo trade show that kicked off Wednesday.

Companies, including Google, have in recent years tried to come up with viable optical head-mounted display technology, though none have yet to find proper success.

Still, with 156 firms participating in the annual Wearable Expo at Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, the digital-eyeglass devices were a big draw.

The release of Toshiba Corp.’s latest offering, Wearvue, coincided with the event. Wearvue, which was formerly called Toshiba Glass, has a small attached projector that displays information for its wearer.

Currently available only for corporate customers, the device allows a maintenance worker, for example, who might normally need to hold a manual while carrying out work, to potentially go hands-free by projecting the text on the device’s glasses.

Toshiba said its headset, with a compact projector, was lighter in weight and had a more aesthetically pleasing appearance. The company said the device was more comfortable to wear than the products of its rivals, which it argued were often bulky and not as well designed.

Kanagawa-based Meganesuper Co., a new competitor in the field, has designed a projector called “b.g.,” which stands for ‘beyond glasses,’ that can be attached to everyday prescription glasses.

It is in response to the belief that many people who wear prescription glasses were often turned off by headset-type optical devices.

Like Toshiba’s Wearvue, the b.g. also projects information and is expected to debut within the year for use by corporate customers.

“There haven’t been wearable digital head-mounted displays that eyeglass makers would recommend,” said Yosuke Murai, a manager in the promotion department at Meganesuper.

He said the firm wanted to provide devices for both wearers and nonwearers of regular glasses.

At its booth, the firm said it could also potentially be used to provide tourists with travel information as they walked about or for translation services. In either case, use of the wearable device would eliminate the need to use a smartphone, the company said.

In contrast, Sharp Corp. showed off a miniature laser projector that can be carried around in a pocket.

The firm said a security guard could carry it in their shirt pocket and project live camera surveillance imagery on the palm of their hand. Sharp said because the projected image was automatically focused without requiring the user to make adjustments, it could be projected on to pretty much anything.

Many of the other gadgets on display at the show included wrist-worn and devices imbedded in clothing that are primarily targeted at monitoring a user’s health.

Apparel maker Gunze displayed a shirt that enabled users to check their posture and heartbeat.

The expo runs through Friday.