Test: VR Goggles in a recording studio

Posted by George in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Vuzix’s iWear VR920 video goggles are well known in PC gaming circles. I’m not a gamer, but I saw several potential uses in my Mac-centered recording studio. Nighttime songwriting without lighting the whole house up with the big screen, being able to watch two computers simultaneously, interacting with a computer only I can see, playing the keyboard while I weld, looking like an albino Ray Charles… so I decided to try Vuzix for muzix.

The first thought one gets when opening the box is that there is no paper manual. You get a PC disc with a PDF manual on it. One would think, if you can read the manual with the goggles then you don’t need it (and vice versa) but this might be just my anti-smartass medication wearing off. My second impression is, the goggles pack about 15 times the weight of my driving glasses. They won’t make your nose fall off, but my sniffer had two red dips after just 10 minutes. It was time to call upon the mother of all computer repair materials – loo paper. I rolled up half a slice, slid it under the nose bridge, and … ahh, instant relief. Hmmm, let’s see what happens if I use a whole rolled-up slice? I cad’t breathe, I overdosed od doilet paper! OK, back to the smaller pad, it makes me look so Charmin.

The goggles with my nose bridge pad

Look Ma, no eyes!

The normal view at key bay 1

Studio headphones *and* the VR goggles.

My studio rig consists of more than a dozen hardware synths, a G5 and a i7 composing Mac. The brunt of the composing happens on the G5, with its’ hundreds of apps amassed through a decade. I set both Macs to the goggles’ 1024 x 768 max resolution in advance. I plugged the goggles VGA and USB plugs into the i7 Mac… and there I was, with a nicely humming computer and pitch black video. Yay, I see an elephant’s butt in 3D! As it turns out, 1) one must restart the Intel Mac for the goggles to start working, and 2) if you plug the goggles into an inactive USB slot like the one I picked first, they won’t get power to run. After I fixed these two errors, the i7 video came up fine, albeit too dark. Switching the color profile from Vuzix 920 to General RGB in the Displays system preference fixed this. Sometimes it helps not to know what you are doing.

On the G5 the goggle hookup went smoothly from the first. At 1024 x 768 the text was a bit hard to decipher, so I downshifted to 800 x 600. It caused Ableton Live to warp itself off the screen, but a restart fixed this. OK we got picture, my favorite music programs like Ableton Live and Karma M3 work, let’s unplug the goggles and plug back the 42" LCD… but what resolution was it at originally? Shoot, I forgot to write it down. I clicked a choice from the suggested ones, and the big screen went into a video restart cycle that no Escape key or hard restarts could stop afterwards. Wow, I just invented a jumbo strobe light! Here I am with no desktop size monitor nearby, and an OSX which lacks a "boot at base resolution video" key command. I borrowed a small screen next day, hooked up to the G5, and set the resolution back to 1024 x 768 through it. Done! Well, nope. As soon as I removed the small screen, and reconnected the big LCD, the video strobing resumed. The G5 would be probably still doing it today, had I not remembered that I have a 4-way VGA splitter box laying around, which always forces the host computer video to 60 kHz and 60 Hz . I hooked the box up… and the G5 works fine with the 42" LCD again, as long as the VGA splitter runs between the two. As they say, if you cannot fix it with a hammer, it’s a software problem.

A recreation of how the view changes at key bay 1 with the goggle on. If I move my head a bit I can see the second, or third synth. If I move my head a lot, I fall on my back.

I did not try to run the goggle as a second monitor besides the existing one because the video cards in both Macs sport an extinct ADC out for the second port. Apple’s April Fools gags usually take the form of custom video connectors and the occasional CPU switch. The good news is, we have good video on the goggles from either the i7 or the G5 Mac, we are in business. If I shake my head, the second screen shakes along with it, a new experience. How about audio? It plays if you select the VR920 as the output in the Sound system preference. The VR920 shows up as an audio output device on whichever Mac has its USB cable connected. (Yep, this means you can watch the video from one Mac via its VGA while you listen to the audio from another Mac via its USB, I tried.) But…earbuds? I’m no "budding artist’, thanks, I prefer my pro studio headphones. Luckily the buds are removable. Selecting the VR920 as the Mac’s audio output, would also stop audio going to the output that normally feeds one’s mixing board. So it’s better to stick to the mixer and to the pro headphones from the outset. With the big studio headphones on your head, the Vuzix goggles fits only at a slight angle, rendering the very top and bottom of its screen a bit blurry. But yes, you can have both devices on your head simultaneously (as my picture shows) and even hop around the keyboards if you add a long enough VGA and USB extension cable leash.

One Response to Test: VR Goggles in a recording studio

  1. Indijana says:

    Thanks so much for jumping and and trying this out. I was completely befaddled scouring the gamers and entertainment reviews for a hint of ordinary monitor usage but I dont have the resources or know how to try it out on spec. I gather vuzix are top of the range in this class of device – and I only want them to facilitate a workaround for a medical (eye) issue so I can work at my laptop (at present an older macbook) and I only want to see my word docs mainly or occasionally photoshop or video editing. Your blog here has reassured me that resolution for reading fine text is not going to be a probalem, is that right?

    But am I also going to need the VGA splitter or was that just for your rig?

    And I am wondering if it is possible with the independent eye adjustment to adjust one eye out of the picture completely – ie to use only one eye to view the screen? Its hard to judge from the specs whether the separate adjustment feature would resolve my issue which is not disparate focal length but angle of vision.

    One more thing – in the photo you have a lot of vision above and below the black goggles area. is that what you can see when they are on properly?

    once again thanks so much for your posting this –

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