Back in the day, I was one of the foolish few to buy into the Virtual Boy’s promised ’virtual reality.’ Unless you’re a collector, it’s likely that you’ve long since gotten rid of the Little Handheld that Wasn’t; you’re better for it, because your thirst for VR could indeed be quenchable today… for a price.
The VR920, the flagship of the Vuzix line of consumer display products, connects to your computer via the graphics card. After installing the suite of software included with the headset, which includes utilities for headtracking calibration and a list of installed games that work with the VR920, the headset comes to life.
Wearing the headset is a bit awkward for me, since I wear glasses, but without them I find it fairly light and workable. Pressure points will get sore after extended use, but most of the discomfort can be solved with minor adjustments to the headset’s adjustable joints.
Built with PC gaming in mind, the VR920 is supported by a long list of major developers and games, including World of Warcraft, Call of Duty 4, Portal, and Oblivion. I spent my time with Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and was thoroughly impressed with what I saw.
The two minute displays found inside the set output in 640×480, which might sound like a callback to the golden age of PC gaming, but proximity to the eye allows the display to mimic the resolution and size of a 62" display viewed at 9’. Indeed, fine details may be blurred a bit, but the overall image is crisp and responsive, without lag or unwanted motion blur.
I took a rare jaunt back into my WoW account and enjoyed a raid using the headset’s built-in earphones and microphone; both worked well without any advanced set-up, and a few minor client-side adjustments made the experience even better.
Great value, as is typical with new tech, comes with steep entry costs. $399.99 will get you a new set straight from Vuzix, and for the most hardcore of gamers, it’s a worthwhile investment. Flight- and racing-sims are perfect for the VR920, and MMOs certainly fit the set well. For many, $400 could easily be better spent on a new graphics card or HD monitor, and since it’s unlikely to be used as a primary display, it really ends up being nothing more than an awesome accessory.
If you find yourself wincing at the cost, watch these headsets for inevitable price drops with new models and improved tech; those with a sufficiently pimped PC could do worse than to experience the same revival I had as the poor memories of the Virtual Boy and other similarly awful sets left my mind. Vuzix is repaving the way to interactivity of which many gamers have been dreaming, so keep your eyes open for their upcoming work.