Technology

Video Glasses Bring Big Picture to Small Screen

Not wild about watching TV episodes and movies on your tiny MP3 player? Futuristic eyewear can give you a more engrossing experience.

If the standard travel fare of sudoku and MP3s is getting old, you might enjoy myvu, the first truly practical set of video glasses to hit the market. For $300 to $400 you can now watch movies on a tiny screen not an inch from your eyes, on a frame that easily fits in a handbag. Myvu is made to work with your existing portable video devices. (For our three favorite portable players see "Video in Your Pocket" in the November issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance).

The design looks a little silly -- the black eye-strip resembles something one of the X-Men would wear -- but it works surprisingly well. Myvu is less than three quarters of an inch deep, but you focus on screen that appears one meter away and 13.5 inches diagonally (we could do with a larger one). Its small size makes it easy to see above and below the glasses, so you're never disconnected from your surroundings. The earbuds are a snap for comfort and reduce a good deal of noise.

MicroOptical Corporation, which makes the glasses, is launching myvu in two versions: a Made for iPod edition for $400 and a Universal edition for $300. Made for iPod is slickly integrated, which partially justifies its premium. It also comes with different cords for powering the device, a pendant featuring your basic video controls, and contrast and brightness settings, all of which the Universal lacks.

The Universal's biggest drawback, though, is that MicroOptical hasn't worked out a practical way of connecting it to many devices. The company currently offers a range of cables for each device, but even so, in some cases it takes a few tries to locate the right one. The Universal should work with any device that has a "video out" connection, but this means you miss out on some portable gaming systems like Playstation's PSP and Nintendo's DS.

All the same, myvu is leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors, particularly for comfort. Icuiti's Video Eyewear products ($300 to $500) are the next best, but they're about twice as thick and 50% heavier. After wearing the Icuiti version for just 30 seconds we felt noticeable discomfort. Icuiti says their new model, which has just hit the market, will feature an adjustable nose bridge to distribute the weight better, but it's basically the same clunky gadget -- we are not impressed.

Myvu would be a solid buy for someone who has a long commute or travels frequently. MicroOptical has wisely recognized this so they've placed great emphasis on durability. The glasses are subjected to rigorous drop tests to prove that the screen won't be affected if they're treated roughly.

Universal myvu is already available from myvu.com, and MicroOptical is taking back-orders for Made for iPod, which should ship in mid-November. Keep an eye out for myvu's entry to retail stores, and for Universal versions that include more charging options.

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