We drive Sensics' self-contained virtual-reality helmet

Is this the future of games? Probably not, but as a platform for simulation and training, there's potential.

LAS VEGAS--Sensics, which makes augmented-reality goggles that I'm told are used for educating Air Force mechanics on how to maintain aircraft, is showing at CES a new technology platform that puts the whole experience in one untethered, head-mounted, bug-eyed contraption. I had to try it.

SmartGoggles is a tech demonstrator, not a product you or I can buy, but it's an interesting look at a potential future of entertainment devices. In the demo I saw on its stereo goggles, you have the first-person perspective of a giant, towering over skyscrapers. With a game controller, you can punch them and they collapse. As you turn around, your view moves with your head. It worked well enough for me, and unlike some virtual reality-products I've tried before, I didn't notice any nauseating lag between my movements and the view of what I saw.

The bug eyes on the front of the SmartGoggles are actually cameras. The idea is that they're supposed to capture the real-world view in front of you so you can see a blend of virtual and real images. The cameras are also supposed to watch for your hand movements, so you can control Goggles apps with gestures. Think about what this could do for first-person shooters. This capability wasn't coded up for the CES demo, unfortunately.

There's a Cortex CPU somewhere in the helmet contraption, running Android.

Sensics hopes developers and hardware manufacturers take a liking to the platform. But the history of head-mounted consumer displays isn't filled with success stories, and even if this device could be shrunk down to a much smaller size, I'm not sure consumers are ready for this kind of immersive experience.

However, for training applications, and for simulations (architecture, for example), there are likely good commercial uses that would benefit from a system that's less cumbersome and expensive than the mil-spec units now being used.

 

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