If you don’t get this picture, please leave now.
If you are anything like me, you spend a great deal of time visiting virtual worlds, i.e. playing videogames. If only there were some way to more fully immerse yourself in that world and have real life just disappear. Enter… the Vuzix! (please pretend you just heard some dramatic kung-fu music and perhaps a gong).
Essentially, the Vuzix is a Federation visor thingy with LCD screens in it instead of whatever it is that was supposed to be in Geordi’s visor thingy. Well, actually, Vuzix is the name of the company that makes the headset, not the headset itself, and there are several different models available. The headset I spent some lonely nights with was the Vuzix iWear VR920. To make things simple, I just called it the Vuzix. Confusing? Maybe — just deal with it.
Anyways, the Vuzix claims that wearing it is the equivalent of viewing a 62″ screen from the optimal viewing distance of 9 feet away. I don’t know how that is mathematically different than a 36″ screen from 5 feet away, or a PSP screen from 6 inches away. While I can’t really say whether or not that’s what the Vuzix view really looks like, it does seem like you are looking at a big screen, so whatever.
Not really me in this picture.
Okay, so how does wearing a headset that just views like a big screen somehow equal virtual reality? Well, that’s where the Vuzix’s stereoscopic 3D integrated head-tracking comes into play. The game I was given to try this out was Microsoft Flight Simulator. Basically, you fly around like normal with your flight stick — no change there. In cockpit view, however, looking around in real life (by that I mean moving your head around) actually moves your view in the game. I could actually peer out the side window, look down, and then get sick. Yes, the experience was so immersive that looking at the tree tops as I skimmed over them actually made me a bit nauseous.
Some games also have a feature that makes them look like ass… at least to everyone except the person with the headset on. It resembles the traditional 3D red and blue blurriness that really hurts your eyes when looked at normally. When viewed through the Vuzix, however, it actually does have a bit of Third Dimensionatude. The grass in the fields of Call of Duty 4 actually had depth and popped out at me.
This is also not me.
Another selling point is the ability to play split-screen multiplayer games without having a split-screen. I remember the fond killings in GoldenEye on the N64 that resulted in a “You fucking cheater! You only knew where I was because you looked at my screen!” Those days are gone. It is possible with the Vuzix to set up a 4-player deathmatch and have each person’s individual screen on their own Vuzix. No more real estate wasted on your big screen by other people. I didn’t personally have 4 Vuzixeseses (Vuzixi? Vuzixen?) to test this myself, but I did see it in action at GDC.
All of this, of course, has to be configured to your head and your computer. The Vuzix ships with a software disk that makes this process relatively painless (I didn’t have a problem with it, but I’m a super genius — your experience may vary). The only thing I did have a problem with was the DVI adapter it came with. It didn’t fit properly into my graphics card and was a little loose, making me occasionally see some distortion in my picture.
The Vuzix also comes with an adjustable nosepiece so that you can wear it over glasses. Wrong! It totally does not work. In none of the various positions available was it situated in a way that didn’t make Dan Landis angry. All you scientists out there would agree that just having a manual focus on the headset itself would be easier than trying to wear this thing over a pair of glasses.
I also didn’t like the size of the Vuzix, particularly the width. Unlike your mom, I can’t spread this thing wide enough to fit my head in there without hurting myself. The plus side is that it remains tight and doesn’t go flying off when I start headbanging, but it does grow somewhat uncomfortable after a while.
So the benefit of having a Vuzix here is that you get your own personal 62″ self-contained multimedia experience for a fraction of the price. With a microphone, earphones, and the LCD screens, the Vuzix is all you really need for a multiplayer online experience on the PC or console. You can also watch porn in front of your family and they’ll never know.
Though not implemented right now, I’m pretty sure this is the interactive virtual reality that Vuzix will lead us to. Also, not me in this picture.
On the downside, the Vuzix can’t fully replace a TV or monitor because there will always be some time in your life when you want others to see what you see, or you don’t want this thing on your face all goddamn day. It also is not friendly to glasses-wearing fat-heads like myself, try as it may to accommodate me.
The bottom line here is that the Vuzix is pretty neat. At $399, you can buy four of them and it will still be cheaper than a regular 62″ television. The Vuzix by itself is really friendly to people who value their privacy or who never play with other people in the same room (unless you buy multiple headsets), and the Virtual Reality features, while not great, are still pretty cool. Also, as you can tell by the pictures, chicks dig the Vuzix. Perhaps you can spend your Bush Bucks on these and help stimulate the economy (tur-hur!).