This week, we’re at the enormous tech tradeshow CES 2016 in Las Vegas, bringing you the latest, coolest and most exciting new technology straight from the show floor. Find out more here, and see what we’ve covered so far here.
I’ll admit, when I saw people sitting around the Glyph booth wearing headphones over their eyes, I laughed. It looked like they were doing a poor man’s impression of Geordi La Forge. But it turned out to be a much cooler product than you look while wearing it: Glyph is kind of a headphone headset, with a personal theatre built into the headphone band.
But the crazy thing is, Glyph has no screen. It projects pictures directly onto your eyes using microscopic mirrors, imitating the way our eyes naturally function. I tried it at CES, and I have to say, you would swear there was a screen in the headband. The picture you see is perfectly rectangular, looks to be a few inches away from your face, and appears to be HD. It’s just like watching a little screen in front of you.
The demo starts with a normal 2D video, then goes into some 3D Avengers. By 3D, I mean the type of 3D you get in a cinema with glasses: some things look a bit further forward, but it’s not good enough to make you reach out and touch things. Finally, we tried a 360-degree immersive video of a Paul McCartney concert, which is where the Glyph really came into its own.
The headset has head tracking, so you can look up and down and around you as with VR. The video was quick and responsive when moving around, and I almost felt like I was there. The headphones help a lot with this, as the audio is just as immersive as the visuals. Glyph is designed to offer high-quality audio when in use as headphones, as well as its secret weapon in the band.
Manufacturers Avegant show a man on a plane using Glyph in the demo video, but to be honest, we’d feel pretty daft using this in public. It’s going to take a while before people accept this kind of headwear, and since this one looks like you’re wearing your headphones wrongly, we can imagine you’d get a whole lot of stares.
That said, it’s definitely more practical for taking out with you than a typical VR headset, which involves cutting off all your peripheral vision and is just generally more of a faff to put on and remove. Plus Glyph still functions as a perfectly normal pair of on-ear headphones when it’s not being used as a display.
Even better, you don’t need a powerful piece of kit to run it. You can plug it into anything that can do HDMI, which means most smartphones, tablets, laptops and games consoles. You don’t need a dedicated app or special content – Netflix works just fine as it is. Glyph is essentially an external monitor – just a really, really weird one.
After a phenomenally successful Kickstarter (over $1.5m raised), Glyph is now available to buy directly from Avegant. It costs $599 (about £410) at the moment, but will go up to $699 (about £480) shortly. Sadly, it’s not currently available outside the US, but Avegant say they’re hoping to go global with the headset that makes you look like you don’t know how headphones work.