Eye-Theatre video glasses for iPod
Review I've wanted to try a truly personal video system - forgot the clunky VR headsets of yesteryear - since I first saw one faked up on Blake's 7 in the late 1970s. Watching a movie on an iPod means holding the player up to your face for hours at a time. It would be so much better to clip on a pair of video specs, sit back and relax...
The Eye-Theatre comprises a chunky, sci-fi styled front piece - it's all silver and blue paint - with a pair of hinged, ear-rests that look not unlike the ones you find on those Oakley MP3 sunglasses. The earphones are on thin wires, partially coiled for greater elasticity, with the earpieces themselves cleverly docked into retainers at end of each arm - just push them up or down gently to release them.
In front of each eye is a lens. Behind each lens is a 320 x 240 LCD. The optics are aligned to ensure that when worn the two images coincide into a single one that's the equivalent of how a 50in TV looks when you're 2.5m away from it, the manufacturer claims. Maybe, but it's not much bigger than a PMP screen held a foot or so from your face.
The front section rests on your nose - comfortably, thanks to a rubber pad - and hard-fixed to the base of the glasses is the power and signal cable. The other end of this plugs into the dual-function battery and control unit. This black rectangular block is clunky and could sport a more effective design, but it fits comfortably enough in the hand. There's a on-off switch and a volume control. The input and output ports are both on one end, though they're completely different so no one's going to plug the input into the output and vice versa.
The fixed 500mAh battery's recharged via a USB cable - there's one in the box - but the battery end has a standard AC adaptor pin-out, so you could use a separate adaptor too. Input cables include a 5G iPod adaptor and a separate composite-video cable, though the latter's terminated in female connectors, so you may need to buy a male-to-male cable to connect the device up to DVD players, set-top boxes, games consoles and the like.
At 68g the EyeTheatre isn't heavy, I found, but some who tried it did feel it was a little too weighty. One thing you do have to watch are the arm hinges. One of the ones on the review unit broke while I was opening the arms out to put the Eye-Theatre on. So little pressure was applied, I suspect the plastic was already cracked, but the breakage revealed how thin is the plastic that connects the hinge to the main body of the Eye-Theatre. If you buy one of these, don't treat it roughly.
As I say, the Eye-Theatre's looks are a little too archly sci-fi, but there's no doubt the unit works as advertised. Connect it up to a 5G iPod - you'll need to set the player to send video to its AV port, built into the earphone socket - and there are your videos in all their stereo audio glory.
I also connected the Eye-Theatre up to both my DVD player and DVR and, again, it worked a treat. The picture's clear and crisp, and it's easy to sit back and watch. The EyeTheatre's perhaps a little too narrow for my taste, but some users will like being able to look above and below the video image to see what's happening in the real world. Others may find this distracting - it's really a matter of personal taste. Occasionally, I found my eyes registering the low horizontal line resolution, usually when I glanced away. It's a bit like sitting so close to a CRT TV you just start to pick out the pixels. But stick with the picture and it's reasonably smooth. The image is bright and crisp.
There's no way to adjust the relative positioning of the LCDs, which I could have done with. The right-eye display was just higher than the left one. Or maybe it's just my eyes - either way, each eyeball was at a different angle to its respective LCD, the upshot being that the right panel appeared slightly darker than the left. Tilting the Eye-Theatre solved the problem, but who wants to spend an hour or two holding down on the right-hand side of their goggles?
To fair, some adjustment is possible with the three rubber nose rests that come with the device. I wear glasses at some times, contact lenses at others, and the EyeTheatre is definitely more comfortable to wear without spectacles, even with the glasses-friendly nose-piece. However, you can wear it without each time having to find a spot at which your eyes can focus comfortably. If the Eye-Theatre slips down your nose a little, you can still see the picture as it should be seen.
If the picture isn't half bad, the sound's not so hot. I found it a little quiet, even at full volume. That's not so bad for pure speech, but if the musical soundtrack's blasting, it can be hard to catch the dialogue. The earphones offer only weak bass - they're no way comparable to the iPod's own earbuds.
The Eye-Theatre retails for £150 ($284), which is rather less than the $350 I've seen very similar units sold in the US for. I'd have expected to pay much more for the gadget, so despite its failings, it's not badly priced.
But you have to ask yourself how often you'd use it? On a plane flight, yes; on a train ride, possibly. For short hops on the underground/subway, you're probably going to stick with the iPod's own screen. I'm also concerned the EyeTheatre's arms aren't up to frequent opening and closing as the gadget's brought in and out of bags and pockets.
The Eye-Theatre's a love-it or hate-it device. 5G iPod owners who watch videos on long flights will find it handy, and there's no doubt it has a certain cool quality - though it would have rather more if the design was a little less naff. It's a good device to have to hand when you want to watch one thing and the missus wants to watch another. ®