When Sony showed off its futuristic-looking 3D visor at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, few people thought the company would actually follow through with it. Many wrote it off as one of those concept devices that technology companies bring to CES just to get media attention.
Well, nope. Sony has indeed put the visor into production and is currently taking pre-orders. The device officially hits stores in Canada on Nov. 25, although at $800, it’s not much cheaper than a full 3D television.
This is one of those oddities I simply had to try for myself and the folks at Sony were nice enough to lend me one for a week. First off, it’s obviously not for everyone. With its price tag, it’s clearly aimed at gadget lovers who get all the latest and greatest stuff, regardless of cost. Sony says the visor is in high demand through pre-orders so far—I’m willing to bet the vast majority of buyers (or the ultimate recipients of said purchase) are probably males between 25 and 40.
The visor is aimed at dudes who live in small condos and who don’t want to disturb their neighbours by playing Call of Duty at wall-shaking volume at 3 in the morning. Similarly, it’s also for dudes who don’t want to infuriate their spouse by doing the same. Trust me, I know.
It comes with a small set-top box that plugs into a PlayStation 3 or other Blu-Ray player. The box then acts as an intermediary—the visor plugs into it and you have the option of running another HDMI cable from it to the TV. If you do so, the visor wearer and TV viewer can both see the same thing at the same time. I’m not quite sure why’d you ever want to do this, but it’s an option that’s there anyway.
Rubber pads attach to visor’s underside to block out light while adjustable headphones can be positioned over your ears, no matter where they are on your head or how big they are. A plastic harness—like the kind found inside a hockey or baseball helmet—positions the thing on your head. The harness is adjustable and Sony says it can fit even the biggest head. I’ve been told by the ladies that my head is of average size, so I obviously had no problems.
Once it’s up and running, the visor is a fantastic isolationist device. It’s perfect if you want to play a video game or watch a movie in total solitude, with no distractions. Sony is also touting it as the best possible 3D experience, better than what you might get in a movie theatre, even. I can’t say I disagree; with the high-definition 3D so in-your-face, it is pretty spectacular. Moreover, the visor has a nice sense of depth to it so rather than the image being right in front of your eyes, it feels like you’re in a movie theatre staring at a giant screen that’s meters away.
I popped in the Uncharted 3 video game and was blown away by the 3D. It wasn’t the sort of 3D where there are simply just obvious layers of 2D at work, there were certain segments—like the Atlantis of the Sands city in the latter stages of the game—that looked real. Very impressive stuff.
That said, there are a bunch of downsides to the visor, not the least of which is that you look like Cyclops from the X-Men while wearing it. Moreover, it is somewhat disconcerting to be in the same room as someone using it. You never really know what they’re doing or looking at. Maybe I’m paranoid, but that makes me nervous. Even worse is the opposite—wearing it when no one else is around. I found myself worrying that someone was going to break into my house and kill me while I was immersed in Alice in Wonderland. But that’s probably just me.
The bigger problem with the visor is that it requires frequent adjustment. If the head harness is on too tight, it will need loosening; vice-versa for when it’s not tight enough. If you can’t find the perfect equilibrium, either the back of your head, the bridge of your nose or your forehead will eventually get sore and require a break.
Similarly, my fiance (who also tried it) and I both found ourselves needing to take breaks because of the 3D. While it is neat to look at, it can be bewildering after long periods, especially if there’s fast movement going on. I found this to be especially true while playing games, where moving my head and my character at the same time almost made me experience some weird, Martin-Sheen-in-Apocalypse-Now-freakout. Some people complain that 3D gives them nausea; I’ve never found that to be the case, but I can certainly see it happening if I were to use the visor for too long.
It’s a niche product to be sure. The dudes who buy it are sure to love it, even if it doesn’t let them shoot ruby-coloured beams from their eyes, but it’s probably not going to turn into the next hottest trend to sweep the land. If by some chance it does, I’m going to change careers and become a burglar. Cue evil laugh.