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Icuiti's latest: the VR920 headset

Here's another VR-type headset from Icuiti...it's really interesting to see what other companies are doing in the head-worn display space.

Although it's still to be determined whether this product will be a winner, it's pretty clear to me that the appeal of this product is potentially limited to a relatively small niche market of 'ubergamers'.

Now there are just a handful of comments on the Engadget post for this item so far (link above) -- but you can see that the initial responses basically make fun of the product as if it's something from Star Trek.

So, what can be learned from this?

Maybe a couple of things. The category of headworn displays still has a 'geek stigma' associated with it. While the form-factors and feature sets of products like this are improving, they seem unable to flip the switch that ignites the fascination of the real mass market.

So, what's missing here? Well, super hardcore PC gamers, who would probably be the target market for a product like this, are a relatively small portion of the population. They may not worry about people making Star Trek jokes about them if a device like this really improves their gaming experience -- and maybe this product really would do just that.

But let's face it. In order to become a mass market phenomenon, the entire paradigm of wearable displays as we've known them will probably need a total revolution.

These displays are for sitting in your gaming chair, hooking up to your PC, and going for as close to full-on virtual reality as we can get. The question is, how many people really want to do that? Is the interest level in that activity high in the world out there, generally speaking?

I'm not necessarily convinced of that...yet. I think VR will eventually become compelling for the mainstream market. We can indeed see some pretty exciting precursors in virtuality sites like Second Life and other massively multiplayer online games.

But even if there's no flaw in the design or form-factor of devices like this one, there may just not be the willingness to engage in the types of applications that really leverage the advantages of a display like this. Think about it this way -- most uber hardcore gamers already have pretty expensive widescreen LCD displays to go with their Alienware PCs. In reality, a small, comparatively low-resolution screen that's amplified my magnifying glasses may be a less optimal viewing experience than just continuing to game on with the display they already own.

Now, theoretically the real world is blocked out providing greater immersion in the game world, and the head tracking capability described here could be a big value-add. But I'm not sure if the whole premise isn't slightly off -- or maybe just too early yet.

And yet, there's continuous interest and ongoing pursuit of new and innovative head-worn display solutions, from numerous companies. It seems to be generally accepted that one day, one of these displays will hit the target and ignite a fire of demand in the mainstream -- or at least generate some significant sales.

Without going into too much detail, what I can tell you is that the Color Eyewear displays from Microvision will take a different angle from what you've seen coming from other companies...

5 comments:

At November 30, 2006 at 5:29 AM Anonymous said...

Ben,

It's great to know that the person responsible for Color Eyewear at Microvision understands the market. Clearly, for this product to cross the critical threshold of mass market acceptance, the form factor must be no bigger than a pair of sleek sunglasses. The natural advantage of a scanned-beam laser display (see-through), coupled with clever use of augmented reality in some intuitive way just might spawn a killer app. But it must be done exactly right, at the right time.

Now, personally, I would buy an occluded pair of glasses with a virtual 100″display and HD resolution in a heartbeat. Not only would that provide a more immersive media viewing or gaming experience, it would set us free from the ancient padadigm of sitting at your computer, straining your neck (sort of like what we're doing right now).

So good luck with that!

 
At November 30, 2006 at 10:27 AM Anonymous said...

Ben,

IMO, three issues, other than quality,
are important:

1. Superior design (as proven by Apple
and Motorola.

2. Price (people are not going to pay
hundreds of dollars).

3. Profit margin (Apple makes about 40%
on the IPod I believe).

What do you think?

Another question: Can the IPM project
on a whole wall if the room is dark?

Regards,
H. Olsen

 
At November 30, 2006 at 10:56 AM Ben said...

H.,

Agree with all your points. To your question, yes, PicoP can do wall-size images that are quite nice in a dark room. I haven't seen it in a totally darkened room (our demo room has some windows) but the experience in an 'unlit' room is pretty compelling, even at very large image sizes. As we get smaller, the brightness increases and the 'WOW' factor really goes up due to the laser colors.

 
At November 30, 2006 at 1:26 PM Anonymous said...

Ben,

Can you tell us the current resolution of the PicoP?

 
At November 30, 2006 at 4:34 PM Ben said...

Not sure that's been published yet.

 

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