Are souped-up, video-enabled goggles the next step in home entertainment?

The latest gadgets and tech toys.
May 1 2007 1:41 PM

View-Masters on Steroids

Are souped-up, video-enabled goggles the next step in home entertainment?

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The myvu. Click image to expand.
myvu head-mounted video display

The myvu (Myvu Corporation, $299.95) is a sleek visor that jacks into a video iPod (and only a video iPod) to project video into a virtual, in-visor screen. According to the company, it uses a proprietary technology called SolidOptex that's based on "refractive optical polymers." I admit that I'm not sure what that means. To test the device, I borrowed my friend's iPod and queued up several episodes of The State. That turned out to be an unfortunate choice. Laughing can be dangerous while wearing the myvu, since bobbing your head with this thing attached can cause motion sickness. Thus, I'd primarily recommend the myvu for programs that elicit no emotional reaction whatsoever, like Inside the Actors Studio.

Comfort/Style: The myvu is extremely light and comfortable, fitting over your ears like a pair of sunglasses. You could feasibly wear it all day without suffering from a sore nose. Unfortunately for me, the myvu doesn't work very well with eyeglasses, although the company says it's willing to grind prescription lenses that attach to the device. (Yes, they're serious.) Appearance-wise, the visor could easily be mistaken for a pair of fashion-forward sunglasses. I took it onto the commuter rail preparing to be gawked at, but I didn't even get a double take.

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Image Quality/Immersion: Using the myvu feels like wearing a 19-inch TV that moves along with your head. While not exactly high-definition, the image quality is definitely commensurate with what you'd get on an iPod. It functions well in daylight, too, with negligible glare and no image dimming. The audio quality, on the other hand, is simply inadequate. Ear bud headphones are attached to the headset, but I had to strain to hear even with the iPod's volume dialed as high as it could go.

The myvu is only moderately immersive: It blocks out exterior distractions, but there isn't any peripheral imaging. This could be construed as a selling point, though. The fact that you're aware of your real-world surroundings lowers your chances of being hit by a bus while using the product. (Note: Do not wear the myvu while driving. Trust me—and my barely avoided traffic ticket—it is a bad, bad idea.)

Believe the Hype?: I could see using the myvu on a long airplane trip as an alternative to squinting at a 2-inch display. But outside of long-haul travel, I doubt that the myvu will see wide use any time soon. The visor's display definitely doesn't constitute a "portable big-screen," as myvu's advertising claims—but it is lightweight and ergonomic. Then again, so is a can opener.

i-glasses Video 3D Pro. Click image to expand.
i-glasses Video 3D Pro

I-O Display Systems boasts an array of HMDs that connect to computers, televisions, DVD players, and other devices that have "video out" jacks. They have a lightweight model that's designed to compete with the myvu, but I tested a higher-end product, the i-glasses Video 3D Pro ($1,199), that's marketed to professional videographers and hobbyists. I tested the 3D Pro by watching Bottle Rocket and playing Grand Theft Auto, connecting the device directly to the output source with standard video cables.

Comfort/Style: In addition to consumer entertainment, the 3D Pro is also apparently marketed for "dental relaxation purposes." (Whatever happened to nitrous oxide?) A dentist's chair seems like the ideal place to use the product—if you're sitting upright, Old Man Gravity makes things incredibly uncomfortable. The front-heavy 3D Pro straps onto your head and rests on the bridge of your nose. After about 10 minutes, I felt like I was wearing eyeglasses made out of plate glass and lead. (I could wear my actual eyeglasses with the device, though, which I appreciated.) Also, the 3D Pro's bulky, gray appearance screams "nerd." You'd be pantsed in a minute if you wore it to a frat party.

Image Quality/Immersion: Like the myvu, the 3D Pro's LCD display is broadcast quality, nothing more. That's an accomplishment for a device so small, but watching a DVD with this thing feels like looking at a television through a pair of binoculars. Also like the myvu, the Video 3D Pro's display does not encompass your entire field of vision—the picture is projected in front of your eyes, with nothing at all on the sides. The headphones are sturdy and functional. 

Believe the Hype?: I was most excited about the device's promise to deliver true stereoscopic 3D imaging. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that the 3D Pro doesn't turn any old video game or movie into a 3D experience. Playing a noncompatible game (basically, every game you already own) in 3D mode is just like regular gaming, but with a bigger screen, a slight image flicker, and a dull pain on the bridge of your nose.

The 3D Pro is a cool gadget, but there's absolutely no reason to use it in a home entertainment context. The cumbersome headset makes the device demonstrably inferior to just watching a movie on TV. While the display size definitely isn't the 70 inches that the Web site claims, at least the 3D Pro meets the other modest claims in the product literature. ("Can be used while wearing prescription eyewear." Check!) But at $1,199, it's destined to be used solely by people who wear calculator watches.