The Goggles, They Do Something
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.
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.
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.
Kyle Rankin is VP of engineering operations at Final, Inc., the author of many books including Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks, DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu Server Book, and a columnist for Linux Journal. Follow him @kylerankin
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