UNBOXED: Reviewing the iWear Video Headphones by Vuzix
To be clear, the iWear Video Headphones by Vuzix are not to be confused with the other virtual reality headsets on the market. While iWear can perform most of the same functions as a VR device, that’s not what this bad boy is designed for. Vuzix pushes iWear as a “mobile entertainment” device first and foremost.
iWear works with most smartphones, gaming systems, TVs, computers, and more to produce an entirely immersive experience for the user. Through platforms like StreamVR (which, by the way, doesn’t play very nice on Mac—though it can after downloading numerous different programs) and those aforementioned devices, iWear can recreate any 2D or 3D movie or gaming experience on an in-headset display that equates to a 125-inch screen viewed at 10 feet away.
What drew me to Vuzix at IFA 2016 in Berlin was the fact that the company had the iWear on display, plugged into a PlayStation 4 console. Seeing that, I knew I had to give them a test drive in my own home.
The experience was definitely an awesome and novel one…for about 15 minutes.
Where the iWear struggles is in the actual build of the device and how different it attempts to be from other VR headsets. Vuzix could learn a thing or two from the customization found in other VR devices. iWear doesn’t allow the user to adjust where the screen is positioned in the viewing area. Not everyone who puts this thing on their head is going to have the same shaped face, so that’s a major fault, in my opinion. Also, the 55-degree field of view, while impressive, almost expanded too far so as the image was blurred around the edges for me, because the cushions around the outside (as well as the actual plastic of the device, started to get in the way. Again, this is something that might have been avoided if I could adjust the way the eyeholes are positioned.
Another drawback, I found, was the length of the HDMI cable that hangs from the headset. I wasn’t able to get more than 5 feet away from the PS4 as I was playing, so finding a comfortable place to sit (or lay) with this thing on your head and plugged into a console was a bit of a chore.
As for the overall experience, it’s hard to beat being fully immersed in a video game, with the exceptional sound quality from the headphones themselves combined with the massive display that sits right in front of one’s eyes. But I found it a little difficult to stay comfortable like this for more than a few minutes at a time. Even with the strap that goes across the top of the dome for added support, the headset sat awkwardly on my face, and natural light spilled in from around the edges of the padding, which was only slightly distracting.
I really wanted to like the iWear Video Headphones a lot. And I think Vuzix is really on to something with this product. But there are some serious flaws with the execution here. All of that, coupled with the $500 price tag, left me wanting a little more.