Wearables

Avegant Glyph hands-on (2015): Fascinating tech, but prepare for stares

Avegant Glyph hands-on (2015):...
Gizmag goes hands-on (for a second time) with the Avegant Glyph, which is like a head-worn private movie theater (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag goes hands-on (for a second time) with the Avegant Glyph, which is like a head-worn private movie theater (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Though it's much larger than standard headphones, the Glyph can look a bit like a pair of cans when worn on your head (audio also sounds good) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Though it's much larger than standard headphones, the Glyph can look a bit like a pair of cans when worn on your head (audio also sounds good) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag goes hands-on (for a second time) with the Avegant Glyph, which is like a head-worn private movie theater (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Gizmag goes hands-on (for a second time) with the Avegant Glyph, which is like a head-worn private movie theater (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
This could be handy on a plane or train, if only everyone around you wouldn't be staring at you (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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This could be handy on a plane or train, if only everyone around you wouldn't be staring at you (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Geordi La Forge! (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Geordi La Forge! (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
A look at the windows into your content (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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A look at the windows into your content (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Avegant Glyph (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Avegant Glyph (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Though large, this is the one way the Glyph can be incognito (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Though large, this is the one way the Glyph can be incognito (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Earpieces of the Avegant Glyph (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Earpieces of the Avegant Glyph (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Is Avegant Glyph the future, or just more awkward gear designed for geeks? (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Is Avegant Glyph the future, or just more awkward gear designed for geeks? (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Simulated image of what playing Grand Theft Auto V on the Avegant Glyph would look like (background image: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock)
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Simulated image of what playing Grand Theft Auto V on the Avegant Glyph would look like (background image: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock)

Though some have described the Avegant Glyph as a virtual reality headset, we think that's way off the mark. And having demoed the Oculus Rift just a few hours before test-driving the Glyph, we can attest that the two are completely different products. Read on, for Gizmag's second pre-release look at Avegant's portable movie theater.

Update: We now have a more current hands-on with the Avegant Glyph.

We got an in-depth look at the Avegant Glyph at CES 2014, but we popped in for a quick visit this year to see what's new. Apart from some tweaks to the design and some beneath-the-surface engineering tweaks (like better power management), we're largely looking at the same product. It's basically a pair of headphones (a huge pair, mind you) that you can slip over your eyes to enjoy some private entertainment.

While VR headsets like the Oculus Rift are designed to shut out the world around you, creating an illusion of being somewhere else, the Glyph lets you look above and below the visor to get a sense of what's going on around you.

On the plus side, it lets you do things like sip drinks and read text messages without taking off the headset. On the downside, it isn't nearly as immersive as the Rift, and is designed more for viewing stationary, single-pane content, like you would on any other screen.

Head-tracking is possible, and the company showed us a 360-degree photo that gave it a pseudo-VR effect. But, again, it's less like you're being teleported to a virtual world, and more like you're watching a TV that's strapped to your face. We mocked up this image to give you a better idea of what it's like:

Simulated image of what playing Grand Theft Auto V on the Avegant Glyph would look like (background image: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock)
Simulated image of what playing Grand Theft Auto V on the Avegant Glyph would look like (background image: Iriana Shiyan/Shutterstock)

There is, however, one big conundrum that goes along with the Glyph, and it's the same one that accompanies many other head-worn wearables: it's going to make the most sense while you're on the go (like on an airplane or public transportation), but those are the same places where it's going to draw some serious stares (even if you won't be able to see those stares).

That could change (or not) as public perceptions towards wearables evolve (or don't), but our tango with Google Glass taught us that wearables that look awkward in public are wearables that are going to have a hard time catching on. Maybe you're a person who honestly doesn't give a damn how many people are staring at you, but most of us prefer to keep a lower profile in public – and feel at least a little self-conscious when we're the topic of conversation in a public place.

... I mean, wouldn't you wonder what the hell this guy was doing?

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Geordi La Forge! (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Geordi La Forge! (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

It's possible that the headphone-like factor can help out a bit there. Perhaps someone will think you're just using your cans to shield light from your eyes, but that's a stretch. These are much bulkier than standard headphones, and are inevitably going to scream to anyone in sight that you're an early adopter trying out some wacky new gear.

Of course you could also use the Avegant Glyph in the privacy of your own home, but that's also where you likely have multiple TVs, a PC or two, and maybe even some tablets, where you could watch the same content. VR headsets like Oculus look awkward too, but they're designed exclusively for home use – and offer an experience that none of your other screens can come close to offering.

Speaking of content, the Glyph is about as versatile as can be: you can plug it into basically any device that allows for external displays (we played a game with the Glyph connected to an iPhone 6 Plus via Lightning Digital AV adapter). Developers and content-creators don't need to do a thing to make it compatible.

Its "virtual retinal display" also looks crisp and colorful, though we did have trouble keeping all four corners perfectly focused in our field of vision – the top end got a bit blurry as the headset refused to sit perfectly on the nose. And though the seeing above and below factor keeps you aware of your environment, we found the demo room's lighting to distract a bit from the Glyph's content.

Though it's much larger than standard headphones, the Glyph can look a bit like a pair of cans when worn on your head (audio also sounds good) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Though it's much larger than standard headphones, the Glyph can look a bit like a pair of cans when worn on your head (audio also sounds good) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The Avegant Glyph is a fascinating piece of technology, even if it is sure to make you a conversation piece for everyone around you. It's set to ship to Kickstarter backers this Northern fall, and should ship to the public by the end of 2015. It will retail for US$600, but right now you can pre-order it for $500.

Product page: Avegant Glyph

6 comments
Terence Munro
So what's the difference between this and the myriad other wearable devices that are readily available that also offer virtual 50 to 100 inch movie screens at a fraction of the price? Or am I missing something.
BenC
I don't think there will be nearly as much stigma with these as Google Glass. Glass is unquestionably nerdy. Everyone who sees this will immediately understand it's appeal. You have a portable big screen TV that you can use anywhere. It might look a little silly, but silly is relative and acceptable given what you get in return. Glass is hard for the general public to understand. Q: "What is it[Google Glass]?" A:"It's like a second screen for my phone that sits on my face. I wear it all day to quickly view notifications and so on from my phone." Q: "What is it[Glyph]?" A:"It's a set of headphones that have the equivalent of an 80inch HD tv built into the headband. I wear it watch movies on planes or in my recliner at home to avoid disturbing my wire and her damned reality TV watching."
fenshwey
What are these like with text? Could I for example work on an office document, switch to a text editor and work reasonably comfortably? I ask because I heard they are very relaxing on the eyes and I'd love to set up 3 virtual monitors and look at them by turning my head. I would rather do that on these than occulus because I can see they keyboard, etc etc I'd love an answer, because if it handled traditional office stuff well, I would buy it.
Charles Barnard
Add a half-silvered mirror to the outside shell with a line of scanning LED's under it and you have a Cylon...turn them off and they're slightly unusual sun glasses. Add a pair of cameras to the edges which can display on the screens and you have safety googles with data display and protection from changing light levels. Add IR LED's and you have night vision....
S Michael
How much.... geez.. No thanks...
jetgraphics
The Glyph is different from "Screen based" systems because of its virtual retinal display. (From Wikipedia:) A virtual retinal display (VRD), also known as a retinal scan display (RSD) or retinal projector (RP), is a display technology that draws a raster display (like a television) directly onto the retina of the eye. The user sees what appears to be a conventional display floating in space in front of them. . . . IIRC, the Glyph uses a Texas Instruments digital micromirror device (similar to those used in DLP video projectors) to create the image.