Remember several years back, when the pundits were predicting that virtual reality would take over our lives and humans would roam the earth wearing motion-capture gloves and skull-encasing helmets? No? OK, perhaps your childhood was a little different, but regardless, the predicted virtual future has thus far failed to arrive (Second Life notwithstanding).
What has arrived is the virtual display, which can be housed in a pair of snazzy video glasses to offer a screen size equivalent to a 48-inch monitor located two metres away. Such is the case with i-Vision's 922 specs, which connect to devices that have an AV output (say, a video iPod, portable DVD player, or a games console) and deliver the images direct to your eyeballs. It's not quite the cyborg-laden future the movies promised us, but it was enough to register a flicker of the needle on our Scale of Cool.
Though they provoked comparisons to Star Trek props, the 922 glasses aren't quite as sleek as the eyewear sported on the sci-fi series. The white plastic specs look like a cross between sunglasses and, with their chunky front section and square lenses, an old-school Fisher-Price ViewMaster. An earbud dangles from a curled, springy cord on each arm of the glasses -- the buds nestle into circular hollows at the ear part of the arms when not in use. A rubber nose bit cushions the bridge of your nose and allows the glasses to sit snugly, although the fit would be better if the arms were more adjustable -- the only possible position change is at the hinges where they meet the display housing.
To connect the 922s to your device of choice, you first must attach the remote, which is around the size of an iPod Nano, and houses an inbuilt rechargeable battery, volume controls and an on/off slider. The remote is plugged in with a grey cable just next to your left eye, which rather spoils the sleek effect of glasses' minimalist front section. Your AV device is then plugged into a tiny Video-In port on the remote. Every cable configuration is accounted for, with an adaptor for composite video, AC charger and car charger thrown into the mix. When everything's connected, there's a chance you'll trip over one of the cables that adorn your body like tinsel on a Christmas tree. We did once or twice.
The first test for the 922s was to see how they fared during an energetic gaming session. We connected the remote to a via the included component video adaptor, donned the specs and loaded Wii Sports. The Wii made for a particularly challenging console choice, because it uses a motion sensor to monitor gameplay. Swinging wildly at an imaginary baseball is fun when all your friends can see the results on a huge plasma TV, but when the screen is housed in a pair of glasses not dissimilar to those worn by Geordi aboard the Starship Enterprise, you look like ... well, a bit of a tool. Not that you'd notice at the time -- playing tennis or boxing with the glasses on is a surprisingly immersive experience. In fact, it's probably best to clear the immediate area of objects and people before beginning a round of Wii tennis, as you're likely to become engrossed in your own world of digital mayhem.