More than just a cinema-on-your-face, the expanding range of Olympus Eye-Trek head-mounted displays are finding a myriad of surprising 'real world' applications. Developed primarily for use with DVD and gaming consoles, the Eye-Trek - which includes the FMD-200, FMD-250W and the Sony Playstation2 compatible FMD-20P - has found its way into dentists chairs and F1 simulators as well as being used for virtual reality VR training and simulation, entertainment and educational purposes.
Designed to be as lightweight, compact and wearable as a standard set of sunglasses, the Eye- Trek is aimed at to providing both exceptional stereo sound and vision of cinematic quality in a wearable personal display. For example, the Eye-Trek FMD-250W gives you an image of 240,000 pixels in a 16:9 wide-screen format - equivalent to a 62" screen - from a distance of 2 metres - coupled with audio from SRS (Sound Retrieval System) headphones incorporated into the arms of the unit. The Trek FMD-250W allows you to use your peripheral vision to see what's going on beyond the head-mounted display, or alternatively, an optional sidevisor is available to block out all external distractions.
The FMD-250W model is packaged with Panasonic's DVD-PV40 portable DVD player - a unit about the size of a CD case - for the complete mobile cinema experience, and the headset also allows you to view any video source - including TV, satellite receiver or conventional VCR - as well as plugging in to your PS2, digital video recorder, personal computer or laptop with a DVD line out.
The potential of multimedia and VR head-mounted displays like the Eye-Trek is enormous, the ability to duplicate of the sights and sounds of any environment and then put someone 'in it' will see the end of the training video across all sectors of society and with rapid developments taking place in the way we interface with technology - look no further than the latest in gaming input devices - we will soon be able to 'feel' in VR as well.
One interesting application of the personal cinema is in the dentist's chair, where children in particular can benefit from the complete distraction offered by wearing a headset - as opposed to the television screens some dentists install in the ceiling or the hanging mobiles featuring blue elephants and clowns that most of us are used to.
There is more than anecdotal evidence for this claim with research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association has shown that using this technology during dental treatment was 'beneficial in the reduction of fear, pain and procedure time'.
The same thinking is being applied elsewhere in the medical profession with a view to alleviating pain and stress for patients in numerous situations.
Another angle on the use of head-mounted display units comes from Phrixus Technologies, a company that has combined this technology with the latest in Grand Prix software and a shell based on the Lotus F1 cockpit to develop a realistic F1 simulator which can be hired for corporate events and parties at a rate of AUS$1795 for eight hours.