Loser: Eyes Wide Shut

Display glasses still aren't ready for prime time

PHOTO: Vuzix

I could stock a computer-peripheral museum with all the input and output devices I’ve accumulated over the years. Drawing tablets, three-dimensional mice, dial boxes, rotatable monitors, touch pads—if it purports to make using software easier or games more enjoyable, I have probably tried it and consigned it to a plastic bin in my basement.

That’s where the Vuzix iWear AV920 personal-display eyewear will be going. These display glasses, said to be compatible with iPods, Xboxes, PS3s, DVD players—any audiovisual device at all!—sounded wonderful: ”a wearable virtual 62-inch big screen,” ”crystalâ¿¿clear high-resolution 2-D and 3-D,” ”lightweight and ergonomic design ensures long use in perfect comfort.” What’s not to love?

But the AV920 doesn’t deliver. It’s made of flimsy soft plastic, yet its edges are so badly finished that they scratch behind the ears. Its stereo earbuds are mounted on stiff rubber arms that are hard to bend into shape and were too short to reach my ears. And, oh yes, the sound quality is unremarkable.

Worst of all, the thing works only with iPods that have better screens than it does. In fact, the ”virtual 62-inch big screen” turns out to be 640 by 480, which the world hasn’t called ”high resolution” since Windows 3.0. With their US $350 price tag, I can’t help but compare these virtual-reality glasses unfavorably to the $500 1080p HD televisions at my local Costco.

Playing Soulcalibur IV on the floor instead of on my couch, tethered to the Xbox 360, was downright unenjoyable. And the glasses didn’t work with my computer; the company wants me to buy another model to do that. The personal-display industry has made great strides in recent years. Unfortunately, these strides have not been great enough to make display glasses more desirable than traditional displays. Save your money for something useful, or risk adding to your own peripheral museum.

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