Keep Your Eyes On This: The Avegant Glyph

By Craig Pearson on January 28th, 2014 at 9:00 am.


Just to get this out of the way: the Glyph headset is currently not a VR headset. It’s a head-mounted display aimed at allowing people to watch movies as if on a large display, though they are looking at the potential for head-tracking with games. But it’s worth knowing about: it’s portable headset completely encased in a set of earphones, so with the band twisted up you can use it to listen to music. Twisted down, however, and it becomes something more akin to a theatre, blasting an image directly into you eyes. That’s the kicker: instead of spreading the image over a blurry screen, the Glyph fires it right into your retinas via two million micro-mirrors. There is no screen. The Kickstarter has already reached its target, so you can read about it without any obligation to make it happen.

I’ll admit that I’m mostly intrigued for the potential it has in the head-tracking space: by all accounts, the way it delivers images seems to solve a lot of the problems plaguing the Rift, eliminating resolution troubles and screen-door effects. Though there’s no talk of how speedily it updates, and the current FOV (45 degrees) is way off the Rift’s required wide-angle. I basically want these guys to meet up in a lift and to start admiring each other, like a sexy movie.

Smart people I trust over at Tested had some time with it. It’s worth watching their take on watching a movie on the thing. The idea of having a virtual 80 inch screen 8 feet away seems like it could make a plane journey disappear in a snap.

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42 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    We’re going to need more neck muscles for all this head-mounted tech.

    Edit: Also isn’t ‘projecting images directly on to the retina’ kind of how vision works in general?

  2. Stimpack says:

    I thought Will seemed rather uninterested, and his hand gestures certainly didn’t make it seem like he was looking at an 80 inch screen from 8 feet. They also seemed to be pushing hard into “We’re into the mobile scene.” Projecting the image into your retina is neat, but it seems like it has some drawbacks. An FOV of 45 degrees sounds atrocious. Plus the thing isn’t cheap, and despite them saying they want to lower the price, I don’t know if I see this thing hitting $200 prices, which seems like that might be closer to what it’s worth.

    Mobility is about what it has going for it, and even then I don’t see lugging this thing around in order to watch movies and listen to music. Especially considering that unless I want my phone to die half way into The Lord of the Rings, I’m going to need to carry around some kind of battery extender. Not that they’re too expensive, but it’s another price and another hassle.

    While it has some potentially cool features, and I’m not trying to argue that it doesn’t, I just don’t see this thing being worth it in its current state. The Oculus Rift, however…

    *edit* Also I don’t know about eliminating resolution problems. Will said it’s a 720p display, but it’s like looking at a good 720p display. Take that for what you will, ya know? Still sounds like it hits resolution issues to me, though.

  3. Max.I.Candy says:

    This kinda makes Rift look like VR of the 90′s!
    (aesthetically speaking ofc.)

    • lizzardborn says:

      Yeah, but rift is here, shipped and working.

      • Baboonanza says:

        And an off-hand sentence about looking at head tracking for games is not enough to warrant it being posted on a PC gaming blog IMO. The Occulus team have been attacking the latency problems for years with the help of Carmack no less and these guys haven’t even thought about it yet. This is not a gaming device in any sense.

        • Stimpack says:

          They’re not trying to be, and all their gaming comments seem to be more or less off-hand. This thing isn’t going after the Rift, it’s going after the HMZ. Now what I would really be interested in is hearing straight answers about the limitations of the hardware they’re working with. They say it was a choice that they’re using a 45 degree FOV, but I just have to wonder. I also wonder if some of the limitations are easy or impossible to overcome.

          One great thing about the guys at Oculus is that they love to talk tech. Hell, sometimes it seems like you’d have a hard time getting them to shut up! They’re very transparent and obvious about their intentions, limitations, and ideas for solving the issues. I haven’t done my due diligence, yet, but as far as I can tell it isn’t the same story with these guys.

          Remember when Carmack was talking about shooting beams into his retina, before Oculus was a thing? Well, I have to wonder what stopped him from going in that direction. I have to wonder what stopped ALL of them from proceeding with that technology. Makes me wonder if it’s just ill-suited for gaming, or what.

          Anyway, it is cool to read and hear about, though. I originally thought smart phones were somewhat stupid in terms of gaming, and I’m more and more surprised with every year that passes. Maybe not so much with the games themselves, but with the hardware. Hell, the Oculus Rift owes a lot of what it is to smart phones for being able to make small displays cheaper, right?

          Anyway, just my 2 cents, or 4. Sometimes I get carried away with this stuff, it’s just so damn exciting!

          • Premium User Badge

            VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            Makes me wonder if it’s just ill-suited for gaming, or what.

            The Glyph uses a micromirror array, just as DLP TVs and projectors have for many years. The micromirrors modulate the luminance (brightness) of light at each pixel, while the constant brightness light source is changed to modulate the chroma (colour); in a typical DLP projector, this is done with a wheel of colour filters that rotates in front of the white light source. In the Glyph, they don’t need a bright light source, so I suppose they’re using an RGB LED array as the colour source.

            Because DLP uses a single light source, pixels in the screen are rendered simultaneously but only in a single colour component at a time. Unlike a CRT or LCD, each pixel does not persist its colour at all. This makes the display very bright and seem very sharp, as the light from each colour component of the pixel hits your eye once per frame, without ramping up or down as it changes colour from one frame to the next. It also means blacks are really black, as the light is directed away from your eyes by the mirrors for black pixels.

            Because a full frame takes time to render—first the red component, then the green, then the blue—if you move your eyes or your head (which also moves your eyes, thanks to the vestibulo-ocular reflex) during this time you will see a little colour separation, which you will see as fringes of colour on the edges between bright and dark areas —the “rainbow effect” as it is known. I expect this will be much more visible in an HMD than a typical DLP TV.

            I forget if it was Valve’s VR prototype or one of Oculus’s ones, but they found that image persistence (and this per-component modulation will have similar issues) with head-tracking HMDs led to smearing and greatly increased unease and motion sickness, because your brain is very sensitive to how the image your eyes see moves as your head moves. The prototype they were using to avoid this used OLED displays that were only lit for a fraction of a frame, so that smearing is minimised. A DLP HMD won’t illuminate the whole frame in one instant (unless it uses three micromirror arrays per eye!), but in three instants. I’d guess this can be alleviated somewhat if the HMD postprocesses each image to account for the movement that took place in the last third of a frame, but how practically this will work I don’t know—could result in aliasing effects, or a much stronger rainbow effect. I also don’t know the switching rate of the micromirror array they are using, which will be vital to prevent smearing.

    • Stimpack says:

      From what I’ve heard, the only thing to make the Rift look like VR from the 90′s is that Valve VR demo they gave.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      And this looks like a vaporware from ’00s.

  4. BarryK says:

    So it uses individual mirrors to reflect each individual pixel allowing them to minimise the gaps in between pixels. Sounds like a similar approach to short throw projectors etc though the stretch to the Apple approved marketing term “Retinal Screen” is a bit much.

    It’s not really for VR, the tech isn’t really suited for it with it’s low angle FOV but for a mobile video player for flights or even gaming on standard consoles at home it could be a nifty bit of tech. If it can come in at a lower price point or a similar price and higher quality to existing HMDs that are already on the market I can see myself looking to pick one up.

  5. CaidKean says:

    I wish people would drawing comparisons to the Rift every time someone puts out a consumer-oriented HMD.

    Heck, Sony have been doing it for years with the HMZ-T# series. There is a clear difference in what the target are with the devices, for both Sony’s line and the Glyph the intention is clearly to give you more of a cinema-feel rather than a virtual-reality feel, hence the 45 FoV.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      Lol. You may as well wish that the masses each got a new brain.

      People, in general, cannot form opinions for new ‘concepts’ based on explanations alone.. they NEED an example, for something to be ‘like’ something else.. otherwise it simply does not compute.

    • snv says:

      Given the low price point of the Rift combined with it’s wide range of possibilites, every HMD has to compete with it; Every other HMD _has_ to be measured against it.

      There is no benefit to a lower FoV, so with worse capabilities the Glyph and the HMZ should cost only a fraction of the Rifts targeted price, exactly because they can only be used for a fraction of the Rifts use cases.
      If you want a “cinema-feel” the Rift still promises more: https://share.oculusvr.com/app/vr-cinema

    • riverman says:

      check out their kickstarter, they have two separate quotes about how their tech makes the rift look like 90s VR… let them eat their words

  6. Premium User Badge

    MajorManiac says:

    The future is… voluntary temporary blindness in public places. What could possibly go wrong?

    • P.Funk says:

      A quiet coup nobody notices because they were watching another remake of the parent trap.

      • The Random One says:

        That’s why my plan for a coup is to wait for someone else to try a coup, then pull my own silent coup while everyone is watching footage of the first coup. Please don’t tell the heads of state.

    • Premium User Badge

      amateurviking says:

      ‘Dear other people. I am now about to demonstrate I have more money than sense and that there is an extremely high probability that I am carrying several thousand dollars-worth of desirable tech as well as these plasticy monstrosities. In addition I am, for the next hour or so, going to be effectively blind and deaf to the world around me while I watch Dr Who on this bitchin HMD, PLEASE ROB ME.’

  7. killmachine says:

    sure, i’ll sacrifice my beyerdynamic headphone for this thing… i don’t think it’s a smart idea to offer a combined video/audio solution. i mean, people may prefer small earplugs when they’re riding a train or something.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    Firing photons directly into your retinas seems like an interesting way to go. I have no idea how much easier / better that is than whatever the Rift is doing, but the blurry pixels were very apparent when I tried one in December (and granted, the final version will have a higher resolution).

    I guess you could also do some clever stuff like increasing the pixel density near the centre of your eye – I wonder if this will be a good way to optimise games once you figure out whatever weird projection matrix you need, since you don’t need to render a bunch of pixels in your peripheral vision that your eye can’t resolve anyway.

  9. frightlever says:

    This is possibly a stupid question but if I’m virtually looking at a massive display that’s being beamed directly into my eyeballs, how do I eg glance at my score in the corner of the screen? Does the whole display seem to move if I move my eyeball? Does it move as the eye moves, and thereby appear stationary? I dunno man. Kinda freaked by tiny mirrors beaming things directly into my eyeballs. Now a neuro-connection straight into my brain, that’d be neat.

    • Beanbee says:

      Light is currently being projected into your eyeballs, at all times. It should be just like looking at the corner of the screen now.

    • Shadowcat says:

      In theory, all the goggles need to do is surround enough area around each eye that they can project light from (approximately) all the angles that light would normally enter them from. If they can do that — and all the light being projected is sufficiently “correct” for the scene it is representing — then it would be a very reasonable approximation of how we see things normally.

      Moving your eyes isn’t an issue at all. After all, moving your eyes has no effect on the incoming rays of light (that would be quite the feat). The light will project an image, and you can move your eyes to concentrate on different bits of it, just as you would normally.

      Note that without the head-tracking bits, it will be as if your head were completely immobile — you can still look around by moving your eyes, but you can’t affect the angle from which the light is approaching you. Of course, that’s perfect for watching movies or replicating other kinds of screens that would ideally always be in a fixed position in front of your head.

      • frightlever says:

        Yup, so it was a stupid question. That makes sense. How do they come up with this stuff? Aliens, that’s how.

        • Shadowcat says:

          If you really want your mind blown, consider this: Although what we see is in large part derived from the light entering our eyes, our visual world is actually constructed by our brain. We each live in our own personal virtual reality.

  10. Jac says:

    Think I’ll stick to my tv hat:

  11. Premium User Badge

    strangeloup says:

    Crikey, and I thought the Octopus was a bit on the pricy side. $550! (assuming not-in-US)

    I think the people who are making headset thingies are making some great advances — I’d love to try the Rift sometime — but I think it would probably be appreciated if they put some effort into Not Looking Like A Tit technology.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      In theory, the Octopus Lift will sell for less once the consumer version comes out, with some crazy talk of it being released for free somehow sometime in the future. In theory, anyway.

  12. rickenbacker says:

    So, a device for rich hipsters to watch indie movies on the bus, useless for pretty much everything else? Awesome!

    • The Random One says:

      Its function is pretty much the same as a tablet’s. Are you saying tablets are only for hipsters?

      Wait… They are, aren’t they? Only a hipster would buy a cell phone that doesn’t fit in one’s pocket and can’t make calls. We just got tricked into thinking it was for the general public. It’s a conspiracy! Tell everyone!

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Using any kind of device that completely blocks your view on a bus is a surefire way to have all your belongings stolen.

  13. Master_of_None says:

    I want to play AC: Black Flag with this. Now.

  14. Moraven says:

    So how is this better than current head mounted TV displays? Just an improvement on it?

  15. Saarlaender39 says:

    Ok, first things first: I openly admit, I didn’t watch the video.

    But just judging by the header-image, I surely am right in assuming, that you wear this thing as headphones (headband on your hair) and if you’re in the mood for watching a movie (or playing a game) you move the same headband before your eyes, yes?

    How about people with greasy hair?

    I mean, as a wearer of eyeglasses, I can tell you – the last thing you want on your glasses is grease stains.
    And wearing the monitors (?) right on your hair, seems to me the best method to get the monitors greasy, smeared and no fun at all to look at / through.

    Edit:
    Btw: how is that thing supposed to keep its position, if you move the headband (which is normally designed to hold the headphones in place aka: on your head) moved from the top of your head to your face?

    • LionsPhil says:

      My thoughts exactly. Not only will the screen be greasy, but on a good, comfortable pair of cans, the headband spreads out a little of the load. For that thing to work, it’s going to have to be clamped onto the sides of your head like a vice.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      The part that projects the image looks more like a binocular lens, e.g. recessed in a little scope than a ‘screen’ as such, so less likely to get grease on it.

    • The Dark One says:

      It also helps them deal with the relatively low resolution of the device. If the virtual screen takes up half the field of view, it seems twice as sharp!

  16. Oakatsura says:

    Yea, there is a reason I am going with an Oculus Rift and that is because I don’t want a pair of mid quality headphones to pair with it, Oculus Rift + my Creative Recon 3D Headset = games the way I want them, not how people think they should be :)

    • Uboa Noticed You says:

      Yeah, the integrated headphones scared me too. I’ll stick with my Sennheisers, thanks.