Glasses, visors, and nose pain: eyes-on with upcoming Sony 3D tech

Sony logoSony wants you to play games and watch movies in 3D, but regular 3D TVs are just so yesterday. In an attempt to help bolster the burgeoning technology, Sony will soon be offering a number of alternatives. We had the chance to check out two upcoming devices: the PlayStation-branded 24" display originally unveiled at E3, and the Personal 3D Viewer, a visor-like device that simulates a theater-sized 3D viewing experience.

One is a nice, somewhat cheap option for the 3D curious, while the other is an expensive toy with lots of promise that doesn't appear to be quite ready yet.

Goodbye to split-screen

At first glance, the PlayStation 3D Display isn't all that impressive. It's a 24" inch display with a nice, crisp 1080p resolution. The $500 price tag might seem a bit steep for a TV of that caliber, but there's one unique 3D feature that makes the display worth a look, especially if you're into multiplayer games. As with most 3D technologies, the display requires glasses to get the desired three-dimensional effect. But with the PlayStation Display, those glasses can display different images for different viewers.

For example, when playing MLB 11: The Show, one player gets the view from behind the mound, while the other is facing down the pitch. The feature eliminates the need for split-screen gaming. Without the glasses on, the image looks strange, with both views layered over top of one another. But once you put the glasses on the effect works largely as advertised. Aside from a few ghost images—I could see the faint outline of a batter while I was pitching—you only see what you're supposed to. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test out a more ideal game, like a split-screen FPS or racer, where the action is faster and the ability to only see your own screen is much more important.

Glasses, visors, and nose pain: eyes-on with upcoming Sony 3D tech

As far as single-player games, I had the chance to play Wipeout HD in 3D and it looked largely the same as on any other 3D display. The glasses are quite light and comfortable, and charge via the same cord as a Dual Shock controller. If you wear glasses, the fit might not be as great (that was the experience of one journalist at the event).

Though it was originally slated to come out in September, some retailers are now listing the 3D display for a November release. It sells for $500 bundled with a game and one pair of 3D glasses.

View-Master reimagined

On the other end of the spectrum, on November 25 Sony will be releasing a device called the Personal 3D Viewer HMZ-T1. Essentially, it's a visor that covers your eyes and ears, fully immersing you in whatever it is you're playing/watching. Initially the effect is quite strange—when I first put on the device and watched the opening sequence of Motorstorm Apocalypse, I couldn't help but be reminded of using a View-Master as a kid. You know the image is right in front of your eyes but it's attempting to simulate a large screen viewed from far away, which can be disconcerting.

According to Sony, the Personal 3D Viewer emulates a 750-inch screen viewed 20 meters away—so basically a movie theater screen. It also features 5.1 virtual surround sound, though the sound wasn't enabled during the few races I played.

What's strange though, is that once I became accustomed to the device, the effect was actually pretty convincing. There were times when I forgot I had a silly visor on my head and it actually felt like I was in a dark theater looking at great 3D visuals. The image is bright and clear and the visor fully blocks out any outside visual distractions. Motorstorm Apocalypse, of course, is a perfect demo for this sort of tech, with lots of flying debris and smoke effects to give you a good sense of the 3D world.

The problem is it's really hard to forget that you have a silly visor on your head.

It didn't necessarily feel heavy, but even with the straps tightened as far as they would go—apparently I have a rather small head—the visor was constantly tipping forward, enough that it actually began to hurt my nose after only a short time playing. The straps also feel cheap and plasticky, especially on such a high-tech device. Put simply, while the visual effects are quite impressive, the visor itself is uncomfortable.

The Personal 3D Viewer is also quite expensive, and is slated to retail for a whopping $800 come November.

Different strokes

These two products are clearly aimed at two different markets. While the PlayStation Display provides a relatively inexpensive option for those who want to play games in 3D, the Personal 3D Viewer is an expensive toy that likely needs an iteration or two to become a more compelling product. Make it smaller, lighter, and more comfortable (and maybe a few hundred dollars cheaper) and it could be the ideal way to watch James Cameron's latest.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: 3D, Sony, TVs

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