The Goggles, They Do Something

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How do video goggles designed for gaming on Windows stack up to a Linux geek's desktop? Find out below.
Video Games

Video games are the main function the VR920 is geared toward, and I wasn't surprised that it worked really well for that purpose. Again, the display is 640x480 at maximum, so don't expect complete realism. Now, I'm an old-school Quake gamer, so I just had to see what Quake 3 was like through the goggles. Once the desktop was set up to span to that screen, I didn't have to do any extra tweaking. I launched Quake 3, and it output to both of my displays. Even though I didn't have the head-tracking feature enabled, I have to admit it was really cool to play games with the goggles on. You do feel even more immersed in the environment than normal, so any FPS (First-Person Shooter) games should work well here. Any other games that could benefit from more virtual-reality-like immersion, such as flight simulators, would get an extra dimension of fun here as well. I should let my fellow Point/Counterpoint columnist Bill try these out in Second Life. I bet it'll knock his socks off.

Movies

I think that apart from gaming, movie viewing is one of the best uses for the VR920 under Linux. The resolution isn't a real issue for anything up to DVD quality, and once I had adjusted the goggles so they were comfortable, they worked great for movies. Just be sure to tell your video player to use the correct audio device. For my machine, this just meant adding the -ao alsa:device=hw=1,1 to MPlayer, but of course, it will vary from program to program. I have to say it was really nice to be able to watch an entire movie on my computer and still have my full desktop to use. In my mind, the killer app for this is airplane travel, as they are essentially headphones for your eyes—you can watch movies with complete privacy.

Conclusion

I had been anticipating all kinds of scenarios where I would use the VR920 before I had them. I could see myself at my desk at work displaying a terminal and maybe wearing them combined with some sort of video camera for augmented reality and become a true Snow Crash gargoyle. The reality of having the goggles around for daily use isn't quite as exciting though. To be perfectly honest, I didn't find myself using them nearly as often as I thought I would. Part of the reason is that I haven't been gaming much recently, but I think the main reason is due to the low resolution. There are only so many programs that work well in 640x480. Having said that, I'm definitely going to bring the goggles with me the next time I travel. If you do play a lot of FPSs or other games with a first-person perspective, or if you watch a lot of videos in public and are tired of people looking over your shoulder, I definitely think you should give the VR920 a try.

Kyle Rankin is a Systems Architect in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of a number of books, including The Official Ubuntu Server Book, Knoppix Hacks and Ubuntu Hacks. He is currently the president of the North Bay Linux Users' Group.

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Kyle Rankin is a director of engineering operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the author of a number of books including DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu Server Book, and is a columnist for Linux Journal.

Comments

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To boldly see ...

Anonymous's picture

Hey man! That looks like Geordi La Forge's VISOR from Star Trek.
When the phasers and the transporter are coming?
:)

headtracking driver

Anonymous's picture

A headtracking driver and an stereoscopic image viewer (needs an nvidia quadro board) for the vr920 can be found on http://www.mygnu.de .

Full HD is long way but have other advantages already

Anonymous's picture

You don't see these much aroung here, but i use
"computer above my head for watching movies"
Bed computer - watch TV/movie in lying position

switching works charmly with xrandr script (msg me)

and it's pretty satisfing, however picture is not BIG and you can't move your head around or play games. Can't wait to test glasses anyway

i had some 15 years ago

Anonymous's picture

15 years ago I bought some VR goggles with high hopes (VRMAXX I think they were called?) You could play the game Descent and it had head tracking... it was a horrible experience. The head tracker was jerky, the goggles were heavy and painful. I paid like $800. heh. Sounds like things haven't improved too much since then.

Resolution is still the key

Anonymous's picture

I fully believe that the resolution needs to be a crystal clear 1024x768 MINIMUM these days for using them as LCD replacements, and probably more like 1440x900 for real HD movie experience. It would be cool if each eye was like an independent screen too; a 'dual monitor' experience essentially.

I used to work at Forte (ironically, also in Rochester, NY as Vuzix is too) -- we made the VFX-1 headgear and back then (1995) the resolution was 320x200x256. Not much of an improvement in optics in 15 years.

By the way, you think the Vuzix look "dorky", go look up the VFX1. We almost lost the Johnny Mnemonic movie deal because the headset covered up too much of Kenu's face!

I think the problem with a headset that's too small is that you get bleed-in from light and the outside world -- therefore loosing the immersion effect. I can't wait till all of this is integrated into a contact lens though. Augmented reality is definitely the way of the future... and then I won't forget the names of people I've met before!

http://daevid.com

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