I-glasses offer a secure if headache-inducing view

I-glasses offer a secure if headache-inducing view


Seeing images is believing with i-O Display product, but eyeglass wearers have adjustment to make

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

The sleek, black i-glasses from i-O Display Systems of Menlo Park, Calif., conjure the illusion of a huge PC screen.

The i-glasses headset looks more like a virtual reality helmet than a pair of glasses. It attaches to a PC, delivering video and sound on two tiny monitors so close to your eyes that you seem to see one, very large monitor. The vendor claims the illusion resembles an 80-inch display. To me, it looked more like a 35-inch screen.

For visually disabled users, the i-glasses' images are much clearer than what they see on a standard monitor. The problem is, the headset's viewing angles cannot adjust to people who already wear glasses. I asked a legally blind user to test the i-glasses. He said the screen looked good, but the constant pressure against his spectacles was unbearable for more than a few minutes at a time.

The monitors themselves cannot be tilted up or down for a good viewing angle. There is only a thin elastic band to adjust for a tighter or looser fit.

Another handicap is low resolution. The maximum emulation, 640 pixels by 480 pixels, works fine for DVD-ROM movies but is no good for prolonged word processing. I found myself squinting until I increased the text size to at least 16 points.

At least some of the users who try i-glasses get headaches. Of the people I recruited, about 20 percent complained of headaches within a few minutes.

I experienced headaches while running a simulation that gave the illusion of motion. I turned my head as I would in a VR helmet, but the glasses did not respond to my head turning'only to keyboard and mouse inputs. This apparently confused my brain and left me dizzy for hours.

Seasick surfing

Later I ran the same simulation without moving my head and fared much better. Other users felt nausea while simply using a Web browser.

Besides disabled users, security-conscious users are a possible market for the i-glasses. If you need to work on a sensitive document while in flight, put on the i-glasses, boot up and work without fear of seatmates looking.

The i-glasses come in several models, from an inexpensive consumer version up to the scientific and technical set I tried. The high-end model delivers true 3-D by using two graphics cards. SGI workstations have two video ports, but most other systems will require a special mono display board for the high-end i-glasses.

The consumer-oriented i-glasses, in contrast, worked well out of the box.

High-quality headphones were the i-glasses' best feature.

The product might sound like rose-colored glasses for certain users, but until resolution improves, it is not much of an alternative display device.

Box Score B-


i-O Display Systems, Menlo Park, Calif.;

tel. 800-339-5287


Price: $799 for professional model, $499 for consumer model

Pros and cons:

+Creates illusion of a large-screen monitor

+Completely secure viewing

'Displays at low resolution on PCs

'Fitting problems for users who wear glasses

Real-life requirements:

SGI workstation, or free PC serial port plus special video board for high-end product


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