Head mounted display technology is maturing very quickly now and what was once limited to research and military facilities is quickly becoming consumer technology. One of the leaders in this is Sony, which has just launched their headset the HMZ T2 in India.
The HMZ T2, priced at Rs.69,990 seems expensive, but it creates the impression of looking at a 72-inch TV from a distance of 6-7 feet, which makes it a budget buy compared to most new TVs of that size. The catch of course is that only one person can use it at a time.
The HMZ is basically a helmet that puts a screen right in front of your eyes. If you look at it from the back you see a couple of plastic straps to keep it in place, and a padded piece of plastic to brace it against your forehead and two screens. It’s large enough to wear with glasses.
It’s fairly heavy, but you’re not really supposed to be wearing it standing up. Leaning back in a chair, it’s quite comfortable. It’s definitely not a portable unit though, and actually needs a separate HDMI passthrough aside from a video source capable of HDMI out. That could be a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360, a Blu Ray player, a laptop or even a phone these days.
Putting the headset on is a little difficult, and you’ll look like you stepped out of a Star Trek set, but once you’ve got it on, there is total immersion. The outside world is not a presence, particularly if you’re using a nice set of noise cancelling headphones.
Sony says the field of view is around 45-inches, so that’s like watching a 72-inch television from around 7-feet away – the actual effect is so much more though, because you’re fully immersed when you wear this. Most people in fact suggest watching TV from enough distance to get a 30-degree viewing angle.
The overall experience is very rich, but it’s worth noting that HMD technology is evolving very quickly. Epson’s Moverio which launched earlier this year is a great portable version of this technology, though the image quality there is not nearly as impressive.
Google Goggles has spurred interest in HMDs as well, and we could see more on that next year. In gaming too, one of the most exciting new products being developed right now is the Oculus Rift, which should have developer prototypes out this year, and consumer products in 2013 – that device promises to blend a head mounted display with a 90-degree field of view with augmented reality – motion based controls, to create a hyper-real gaming experience.
The technology is improving rapidly, but actual consumer products are still a little way off–the HMZ is a good bridge product, and worth trying out.