After waiting patiently for 15 years I decided to dip my toe back into Virtual Reality. Although I don’t really want a virtual reality; I want a total immersive 3D actuality. With head tracking.
15 years is a long time, but I still remember the amazing technology being showcased in both (selected) HMV stores and the London Trocadero, for a fiver you could shoot pterodactyls in amazingly immersive 3D. As you can see here. It was quite low resolution, even for the time.
A fiver was a lot of money back then. A pint of decent Guinness was only £1.84, a normal arcade game about 30p, stretching up to 50p or even £1 for a prop based game. So, 15 years ago VR really was expensive and low-resolution. It was, however, very immersive.
I fully expected to be able to buy an SXGA resolution fully immersive head tracking wonder for about £500 – I estimated a 1080p jobbie would be about a grand. As it happens, I was very wrong indeed.
So, what is available?
Well, consumer grade stuff is pretty limited. You can get a Vuzix iWear VR920 for around £300 or less. There are several things I don’t like about this product and similar ones in this rough price range.
- Display Resolution seems low at VGA 640×480 – although, in head mounted display (HMD) land, this isn’t too bad!
- Field of view (FOV) is very narrow (32 degrees) – I want to be immersed – not feel as though I am just watching a big TV.
- Level of physical immersion isn’t really what I want, they are like little glasses with too much of a gap all around them to let In the real world.
The next level up, let’s call it the ‘enthusiast’ level.
This would be something like the eMagin Z800 – this has increased resolution to SVGA 800×600 and an increased field of view to 40 degrees. Ok, you’re probably thinking what I thought; it’s a little bit better, so probably a little be more expensive… say – £500? Nope. £1500. 1500 of your finest pounds. And still only 40 degree field of view! Also, the reviews mention that the visor section wobbles about a bit, which, because of the quite small openings in the optics, means you can loose immersion quite easily. Boo to that then.
The super enthusiast level
So, after that jump, what’s next? – Dosh, lot’s of dosh.
There are a quite few HMD’s around the £2000-£5000 mark which have similar specs (on paper) to the Z800, such as from Cybermind or Trivisio
I quite like the Trivisio one, it looks like it means business and the people I talked with were very nice.
However, the issue with HMD’s in this price range (apart from the price) is the field of view. 40 degrees really isn’t that great. It’s just like looking at a big screen from a given distance – I want to be immersed! This pretty much means I want a FOV of at least 50 or 60 degrees, this is to say; I want to be closer to the big screen!
Also, strangely, most of these are over 5 years old. The market is really stagnant.
The ones you actually want
Professional head mounted displays can offer an immersive, high field of view and higher resolutions. They also come with quite a price tag.
This one is £10,000
This one is £22,000
and this one is £26,000
For a good overview of HMD’s available in the UK look here:
Forced into action
Since I don’t have (that much) cash to burn and having seen the prices and specifications, I really, really want one.
What am I going to do?
I’m going to create one. I’m going to spend as little as possible and I’m going to end up with decent 50 degrees+ FOV head mounted display. That’s what.