Consumer HMD comparison

We’ve wanted headed mounted display technology to take hold for a long time. Gizmodo recently compared two consumer models: the Zeiss Cinemizer ($400) and the Myvu Crystal ($300). Unfortunately the resolution of HMDs has gone nowhere in the last 10 years. These two devices only support 640×480 and are aimed specifically at iPod users. With computers getting smaller and higher resolution, we’re surprised that HMDs have not followed suit. Why isn’t someone going to market with a 1280×720 headset? If you really must choose one of these two, we’d recommend the Myvu. It has composite input so you can hook almost anything up to it.

28 thoughts on “Consumer HMD comparison

  1. I wonder if 640*480 is the biggest they can go from a focal aspect.. like could you see somethign smalelr then 640*480 and im sure it cant be good for your eyes focusing that close. But stillw ant one :P

  2. eraser: the point is they are supposed to use optics to make it appear that you are focusing on something that’s in the distance, so in theory it’s not like you are focusing on something close at all. and you can definately see higher resolution than 640×480, otherwise why would monitors have higher res, when they are much further away from your face than the goggles?

  3. crap that’s sweet! i want to see a HUD written for that. one that looks like half life and has a cross hair on it and a button so i can shoot people…. and the time and temp….

  4. What about the new apple patent for HMDs, It definitely has applications for increasing the resolution above what the LCOS panels in standard HMD’s. I have a pair of iGlasses HRV and they are definitely not immersive in any way, I’ll wait and see what Apple have up their sleeve.

  5. that headplay webpage sucks monkey balls
    thers all PR and hype but no actual info
    very suspicious, almost makes you think they lie when they say its 800×600 native because thers something about “rescalling” line above the resolution info.

  6. Got good news for all you HUD fans. BTW, I’m not affiliated with these guys.

    See KOPIN Corp. Website-

    Yes, super high rez display units exist, 1280×1024 is the max so far (3000$, 800×600 is around 400$). Kopin’s the actual supplier for almost every one of these type of HMD’s display units, as well as most camcorders etc. on the planet, I belive. If you go right to the source, you can BUY either single displays, or as pairs in full depthing modules like you see here. Unlike most parts manufacturers, they actually put all their prices on their site in the open.

    Unless you got a SERIOUS budget, you can’t afford the 1200+ version yet since those prices are what the industry buys them at, even their bulk prices are listed. The tech to make them is still, apparently, expensive as hell, so that’s why they haven’t shown up in stuff like this yet. Plus, Ipod junkies already give a shit about sound quality, I’m sure that’s another reason these don’t go too high rez- the customer doesn’t care about quality when they deal with an Ipod perhephrial.

    So, if you have about 400$, or even a bit less, you can BUY these really nice 800×400 displays straight from them (le, totally hackable into ANYTHING you can imagine. If you want an immersion display like these, get one of their dual module lens units.

    I’ve been into HUDs for years, KOPIN is the best there is, and they give you their prices. Check them out! Maybe noone here knew them… And now, HUD hacks are going to supernova!

    Enjoy their site.

  7. “It has composite input so you can hook almost anything up to it.”

    Uhh many of your readers can hook anything up to anything I don’t see why that comment is relevant :P

  8. The module versions are 2 displays mounted to an optics block/unit, all self contained, basically the working guts of the myvu and other such units. Think of it as the hacker’s delight- I believe they are ready to plug and play, you can make your own custom mount for it (ie: : fit it to the inside of a mask, cover it with shapelock and make a custom molded frame to mount to your head that looks less “jordie” like, etc.)

    Framed versus frameless- the framed versions have a plastic bezel around them to protect the edges and fill space to mount to camcorders/consumer gadets better, the frameless versions are the barebones glass-ended displays with no protection bezel- as big as the display itself is what you get on a ribbon cable.

    Basically, yeah, the same 640×480 module unit is used in both of these HMDs in the review, and you can buy it for 240$ bare from Kopin, and make your own frame from stratch, via shapelock molding, lost wax casting, etc. Save money, and get the smallest possible form factor for hacking it into another device!

    Hope that helps.

  9. Edit- the MODULE version as used in these is 400$, the singular displays only without the optics are 240$ each. My bad. So, it’s up to you- you can pay as much as the more expensive ziess, but get the smallest form factor out of the box. It looks as though there are volume discounts, or these 2 HMD makers wouldn’t make any profit…

    If you want just a single HUD, the Kopin site is the best way to buy single displays of any rez. Otherwise, canabalize! (my motto).

  10. myvu units aren’t just contained modules, they have custom, smaller very specialized (plastic) optics than those standard modules. I doubt the standard Kopin dual display would fit inside of the myvu frame.

    It’s like the HMD monocles from the Spygear line, 320×240 B&W kopin, but they went the other way, with cheaper and bulkier (I suspect) optics instead.

    ANother SVGA model is this:

    I forgot about headplay, technology looks interesting. It appears that they may actually be running a “true” 800×600 display instead of (800×600)/3 of a typical color masked LCD. It looks to use a projector type technology(LCOS), as it has 120Hz framerate, but 360 color fields per second, so each color gets its own full field. Should be OK if they’re using RGB LEDs like they should be (although hilarious if they had a spinning color wheel in there!). This also explains why you MUST use their external box, it needs very special drivers. They just had spare horses so they provided a mini media player inside. Hmmm… technically, this technology should scale linearly with DLP projector prices and color capability.

    For daily use, however, I believe you either need a translucent display (Heads up Display) or a sidelook display (Heads Down Display). If you can’t operate with the HMD on, what’s the point? The myvu comes close, and will probably cause the least nausea. They focused on making the framework around the display translucent so you don’t get as disoriented as normal HMDs. A lightweight sidelooker for the non-eyeglass crowd is the eyetop.,83&function=viewproducts

  11. let’s not forget about this great hack:

    sadly, the hmd is no longer available from the manufacturer’s site as a replacement part for $25, but you can still get the whole “spy car” kit off ebay for a little over double that. the hmd takes composite input from a headphone-sized plug that can easily be wired up to the jack for a standard RCA cable.

    as the proud owner of one of these (admittedly lo-res) hmds, I’ve got a question for the hackaday crowd: how can I get my laptop (compaq presario 2200, ubuntu hardy) to provide this 320×240 hmd with graphical input? the hmd is connected to the laptop via a rca-vga convertor, and stuff occasionally pops up on the hmd when I change the laptop’s display mode, but telling the laptop to display stuff on the hmd via ubuntu’s screen resolution doesn’t seem to have any lasting effect. any suggestions?

    (my goal is to have my laptop take input from a camera mounted on top of the hmd, run that input through my homebrew facial recognition software, and display the output on the hmd.)

  12. I have the Headplay. It works pretty well and supports 1024×768 input (though resolution is still 800×600) Honestly the real issue is not resolution but field of view. The Headplay is a good compromise, and certainly a lot better than most of the “iPod airplane” goggles, but it’s not like the huge 20lb 1980’s style hmds with near total immersion.

    I got it after realizing making my own hmd was prohibitively expensive, and most of the other commercially available products were seriously lacking in one area or another (resolution vs f.o.v. vs price vs size vs reliable reviews.)
    The headplay was a good compromise (for me) though I had to implement my own motion tracking using a ps3 controller. Currently dismantling it for a ben heck inspired virtual boy casemod. Will submit in about a month.
    If you are looking to make your own hmd though I suggest you start with the work of Steve Mann…
    Severely dated, but incredibly, incredibly brilliant.

  13. I\’m just waiting for a pair of sunglasses with an OLED substrate on em… way higher resolution can make em transparent OR opaque, no backlighting needed, better on power, and hopefully cheaper.

  14. I have come across some kopin bdm-230k modules shown here – – I will be using them for testing I am doing with tracking hardware. They are similar to the spy car kit but have two color displays. I will be getting rid of the extras for very cheap so if anyone has interest in them just comment below.

  15. I bought the Myvu Crystal EV:s and scavenged the display optics for a wearable project. Some things I have learned:

    * It is possible to put the displays inside a pair of sunglasses instead of outside them.

    * The sunglasses I used only needed to be made to protrude a barely noticable amount extra from the face to make room for the prisms. Nobody around me seems to notice anything peculiar about the glasses.

    * Placing the optics at an angle just under the eyes, there is no obstruction of the view of the world outside. The screen is viewable by glancing down, just like on a car dashboard.

    * The lower eyelid can sit directly against the prism without the picture quality deteriorating. This is possible since the specified “eye relief” of 10 mm is a maximum allowing for prescription glass insets. There is however no minimum, the optics behaves similarly to the oculars of a pair of binoculars or a microscope.

    * You might expect that having the prisms this close to the eyes should be dangerous, with a high risk of accidentally poking out the eyes. This does not appear to be so, however. Glancing down, the eyes only need to be barely open for a full view of the screen. The eyelids and -lashes therefore prevents direct contact with the corneas. As for blunt impact prevention, I use ample amounts of padding resin to smooth the glassy edges of the prisms and to make large support areas under each eye. But, I have not yet bumped into anything to find out the hard way what will happen… I expect a black eye but no piercing trauma.

    * The padding under each eye significantly helps to relieve the nose from the weight of the glasses. I however need to research for more skin-friendly plastics, I seem to react to the stuff I’m using now.

    * The reflection angle of the prisms is too shallow to be able to completely overlap the twin images without difficulty. A lightweight and unobtrusive design is also to flimsy to keep such alignment stable, instead calling for large, angular, ugly and generally Star Trekky designs I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. Or if I did wear it, my wife would certainly kill me.

    * Instead, I have opted to let the screens display side-by-side. This may preclude some of the really awesome 3D possibilities inherent in twin displays. However, and I think this is really important, it is possible to let the viewable area extend across the two screens, in effect working as an “extended desktop”.

    * By the side-by-side display design, the pixel density is in effect doubled and extends that of high-end and military HMD designs without their bulk, cost and minimal availability.

    * For now, both displays will show the same image. This is a pity. I hope someone reading this can help me to device some clever electronics to show different images in the displays. What is needed is to take the video-out from a smartphone, cut each frame in half and feed each part separately to the respective microdisplays. It should be doable!

    * In essence, the glasses I made work as they are. Really usable wearable displays are possible today, before flat holographic waveguides etc.

  16. Back when I was researching my own build, I emailed Mr. Mann (great name btw), and took a tour at a Kopin facility, as well as talked with some engineer/management types there for about 20 minutes (and a cute receptionist for about an hour).

    Long story short, last I checked, Mr. Mann was going the route of pico-laser projector w/ beam splitter (and has a working demo model, as well as previous configurations).

    Kopin stuff is nice, but it’s tough to cannibalize because I can’t find a list of OEMs that use their displays. Also, while they encouraged a one-off, they repeatedly discouraged any kind of business plan. I can’t wait till I walk back in there with my own set of HMDs similar to this one.

    I wonder why everyone wants to use the Myvu. Seems a shame to me to hack apart a perfectly good product when there are other perfectly good options available, possibly even for cheaper. Steve Mann’s site shows him using old camcorder screens as a start. With anything with one-time-use removeable media being essentially worthless (except for niche uses) nowadays, I wonder how difficult it would be to get one’s hands on some of the higher-quality view screens from not-quite-new camcorders, or other equipment that uses the Kopin screens.

    All that being said, I’m jealous of this and many other builds. Can’t wait to do my own!

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