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Vuzix headset will catch ‘Avatar’ wave

By Mark Baard
January 25, 2010

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Augmented reality
Millimeter by millimeter, stereo television eyeglasses are approaching a size worthy of wearing in public.

Last fall, I told you about Vuzix Corp.’s Geordi La Forge-like headband, the Wrap 310, which the company billed as an ideal pair for watching 2-D and 3-D flicks while commuting to work.

Vuzix (vuzix.com) has been tilting its futuristic eyewear toward augmented reality apps, such as it did with the release of its clip-on USB camera, the iWear CamAR.

By combining the CamAR with the Vuzix iWear VR920 headset - and with the right software or game running from your PC or console - you can see computer-generated 3-D images materialize in your living room.

Now, Vuzix has created a pair that could pass as sunglasses, if not for the little camera on each lens. Called the Wrap 920AR, it is an improved, stereoscopic, all-in-one version of the VR920-and-CamAR combo.

Vuzix is counting on book publishers and media producers to leap on board the 3-D craze started by James Cameron’s half-billion dollar cartoon movie, “Avatar.’’

And it envisions the Wrap 920AR, which has a small camera centered over each lens, as an ideal way to see the animated characters that will presumably be flying off of every cover and TV screen from now until the end of the Mayan calendar.

The Wrap 920AR simulates the effect of looking at a 67-inch screen from 10 feet away. (Think of it as a man cave you wear on your head.)

And the cameras on each lens combine to create a single, stereoscopic video image, onto which software can render spaceships, goblins, and the like.

The new AR headset also has a tracking device to follow roll, pitch, and yaw in a flight simulator, and to determine your head position on X, Y, and Z axes, say, if you are circling a computer-generated model car.

The Wrap 920AR, a USB 2.0 device, is PC and Mac compatible. When it becomes available (sometime this spring, says Vuzix), the device will cost about $800.

By the way, if you have already invested in a pair of Vuzix 2-D/3-D/VR goggles, you should not feel completely dusted: Vuzix says it will be making the stereoscopic cameras available as a separate attachment, so you might be able to upgrade your older model.

iPhone docks

A dandy catch for movies, tunes

IPhone and iPod docks had been looking pretty tired right up until the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. But one cute little piece stood out: the Rotational Alarm Clock Dock Station from iLuv Creative Technology (www.i-luv.com), which looks like a black catcher’s mitt and works with a special iPhone app to convert your phone into a cool, old-fashioned-looking flip clock, like those on display at Ikea - or another design of your choosing.

You can prop iLuv’s station vertically or horizontally, to play music and movies, using its built-in speakers.

The station will be available next month, for about $130.