The Vuzix IWear 720 headset was announced recently and Wareable has been lucky enough to take a spin in it during its first showing in the UK.
Part of the OSVR family, the IWear 720 is designed to display anything from VR gaming to 3D movies; putting the equivalent of a 130-inch display in front of the wearer's eyes.
Does it live up to its promise? Read on for our early impressions….
Vuzix IWear 720: Design and build
Like the much-anticipated Avegant Glyph, the Vuzix IWear 720 is essentially a pair of headphones with the strap sitting across your eyes rather than on top of your head. Unlike your usual over-ear cans though, its strap packs visuals, with a virtual big screen placed right in front of your peepers.
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The screen's resolution is twin 1280 x 720 panels, or 720p for each eye. The system boasts a rather mediocre 60Hz refresh rate and 57 degree diagonal FOV. Visuals were good, if not spectacular, in the couple of demos we tried.
It's a comfortable system to wear – dare we say, more comfortable than both Oculus and Samsung's headsets, thanks mainly to the cushioning being on the forehead rather than all round the eyes and on the bridge of your nose. The adjustable rubber strap goes around the back of your head and the pressure is nicely distributed.
It's also comfortable because it's breathable – due to the large gap of air along the bottom. But that's also an aspect that loses the 720 VR points somewhat. Read on to find out why…
Vuzix IWear 720: Virtual reality
Unlike Oculus Rift and Gear VR, the display isn't totally immersive. Rather than it taking up all of your vision, and totally engulfing your visionary senses, it really does appear like a big screen in front of you as there's a clear rectangular frame around the action.
With mobile games such as Expendable Rearmed, which we played through an Nvidia Shield handheld console, this is fine and is obviously preferable to playing on a small screen (especially with the audio action pumped through the noise-isolating 1500mW headphone), but for full-on VR experiences – we played Radial G on PC – it's a bit disappointing.
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Sure, you can look around 360 degrees but you lose a sense of your virtual reality because of those aforementioned air gap at the bottom, which encroaches into your vision, and the border around the screen – which make the visuals appear like a big floating window.
The head tracking did seem to work well though (it's got a 9 axis inertial measurement sensor) and that fact that you can pump pretty much any digital platform into the system using HDMI will be a big winner for some.
Vuzix IWear 720: Compatibility
Unlike the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus, the IWear 720 is designed to be open source and multi-platform, and will connect to any PC, TV, smartphone, tablet or console via HDMI, enabling you to watch 2D and 3D content as well as playing dedicated VR games.
Vuzix has teamed up with the Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR), a collaboration of tech companies striving for open standards in virtual reality technology. Its the platform championed by Razer, which showed off its OSVR development headset at CES 2015.
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The IWear 720 will also pack support for Unity 3D and Unreal engine games and the OSVR initiative announced recently that there are now more than 50 partners signed up for the alliance.
Vuzix IWear 720: Early impressions
Vuzix has made a clever decision to become part of the OSVR alliance for its latest headset – it means that it doesn't have to convince developers to make games and experiences for a standalone platform.
OSVR states that it has aims to be the Android of the VR revolution and, just as with Google's OS, there will be different devices offering different levels of immersiveness. From what we've seen so far, the Vuzix IWear 720 may well be at the lower end of that scale.
Yes, the multi-device and platform support is brilliant, and the headset is a comfortable fit but, at $499, it might prove a tad pricey for what's essentially a personal video player.
It's great fun, the sound is awesome and the visuals are decent – but we can't help but feel it's double the price of what the majority of consumers will expect to pay.
The Vuzix IWear 720 is out this summer with US, Europe and Asia launches planned.