If the price is right, this new headpiece from Sony could really mix up the TV market.
Crave contributor Christopher MacManus regularly spends his time exploring the latest in science, gaming, and geek culture -- aiming to provide a fun and informative look at some of the most marvelous subjects from around the world.
Sony is returning to its innovative roots with the introduction of a head-mounted display that simulates a 62.5-foot screen.
The Personal 3D Viewer, or HMZ-T1, is billed by Sony as the "world's first 3D compatible head-mounted display equipped with an HD OLED panel." Capable of screening 2D and 3D content, this headset is reminiscent of Glasstron, a similarly designed Sony headpiece (with LCD screens inside) from 1997.
Miles ahead of the predecessor, the HMZ-T1 could be that wow factor Sony has been trying to hit the market with for years.
The company had trotted out a prototype back in January at CES 2011 but officially announced the product in Tokyo today ahead of IFA. It's set for a November 11 release in Japan with a price tag of 59,800 yen, or $781.
Within the headset are two 0.7-inch OLED displays (720p/2.8 million pixels) that have all the features of an expensive high-resolution panel in a small form factor. Within, the optical lens projects a 45-degree horizontal viewing angle to the user with a "virtual viewing distance up to 65 feet."
The best part of all this is that it's not another Sony product crippled with proprietary nonsense. The HMZ-T1 uses a normal HDMI connection, meaning it works with a game console, cable box, Blu-ray player, video card, etc. It can even control connected devices through the HDMI CEC function (including play, pause, FF, rewind, previous, next, etc.). A secondary processor unit is necessary to handle the HDMI in/out pass-through to the headset, as seen below.
Headphones are built alongside the optics, capable of 5.1 channel virtual surround sound with four modes, including standard, cinema, game, and music.
An OLED screen delivers shades of black that LCD TVs still have trouble achieving, while color reproduction capabilities of 150 percent deliver an extremely vibrant experience (especially with an additional built-in 14-bit up conversion, according to Sony). Gamers will also drool at the insane response time, which is less than 0.01ms. This means sports, games, and anything else with fast-moving sequences will be silky smooth through this special display.
Coincidentally, the screens found in HMZ-T1 are the same as the viewfinders of Sony's A77, A65, and NEX-7 cameras. Learn more about the ultra-small OLED display at Sony's global site.
Sony boasts a crosstalk-free 3D image within the glasses, which will be a major boon to the product if proven true. The company believes the problem is solved by adverting the technology found in 3DTVs, which rely on frame sequential or line by line methods of 3D display. The HMZ-T1 employs a "dual-panel 3D method," which has separate panels for each eye receiving "its own dedicated 3D video," according to Sony.
Additionally, the headset also has a built-in "shade plate" that aims to offer maximum immersion by blocking light from below. Another nice touch is an included wearable sensor that puts the device to sleep when not in use.
Although the product will cost nearly $800 when released this fall in Japan, I have a feeling that the IFA 2011 show in Berlin, which officially starts Friday, will include more release information and lower prices for other countries.