Everyone is betting big on video headsets including Vuzix who solely specializes in a range digital eyewear from smart lifestyle to augmented reality well before it was cool, and now they’re getting into the possibilities of gaming and virtual entertainment with the iWear Video Headphones. Offering an immersive experience not only for home, but for mobile enjoyment as well.
Now I’ve had the pleasure of using personal viewers before, or simply wearable 3D HDTVs; the most recent one being the Sony HMZ-T3W which came with stereoscopic 3D, virtual 7.1 surround sound, and additional 60GHz WVAN WirelessHD capabilities. It was definitely a premium lifestyle item and obscenely expensive even now at $1099.99, so of course I could never recommend them to normal people.
I feel more comfortable taking a look at the iWear because it’s a lot more attainable at a pre-order discount of $449.99, much less than other consumer versions that are due to come out, when and/or if that actually happens. Of course this gives Vuzix a more agreeable timeframe of Q3/Q4 2015.
This, like the aforementioned Sony model works like a 3D HDTV and has input resolutions up to 1080p and stereoscopic features, with a 130-inch equivalent screen and 24-bit color. The audio portion is more game-centric and comes equipped with integrated noise-cancelling over ear headphones, and while they lack surround sound of any kind you do get two 40mm drivers and twin microphones for essential acoustics and communications.
But I went to their E3 booth to check its VR credentials and found out the technology is based off of ‘OSVR’, a open-source initiative that competes with Oculus in terms of costs and consumer availability. The physical build I wore was a pre-production model with exposed hinges and a dual screen-per-eye setup that was limited to 30Hz, although the developers were quick to point out that the actual consumer version will run at a full 60Hz and have improved quality overall for release.
I went a couple a laps with a game called Radial-G, a futuristic racer that played like F-Zero in first-person view. The gameplay was decent but the implementation gave me a good idea of how the VR looked and performed, stutter was minimal and the wraparound view was pretty good as well. In its current form, I would’ve appreciated another game or genre that was more benchmark-oriented but I was moderately satisfied nonetheless.
With Oculus taking center stage, it’s easy to forget that alternatives like the iWear have a place in an emerging but relatively unsettled VR market. Since Vuzix has adopted OSVR and is also intended to be an affordable personal display it should have more conventional uses outside of virtual reality – which alone is an appealing option. Pre-orders for the iWear are currently underway and expected to ship out this fall.