Eric Cheng

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Avegant Glyph, up close

The micro-mirror display of an Avegant Glyph is reflected in cellist Phillip Sheppard's eye

Cellist Philip Sheppard came by this morning to borrow my cello for a couple gigs in the SF Bay Area, and the Avegant Glyph happened to come up in conversation. This (of course) led to an impromptu photo shoot during which I wanted to get a picture of the display reflected in his eye.

Philip Sheppard wears Avegant Glyph

Phil was a great sport, and endured the session with a smile on his face. It's interesting what photography brings out in displays. I took 3 separate exposures of just a hint of reflection on his eye from the micro-mirror display, and ended up with red, blue and green pinpoints of light. I guess we can't (yet) really get away from RGB when we are dealing with digital displays!

Glpyh reflects blue in this photo

In successive photos, we get red, blue and green reflections

I've had a couple of hours using the Glyph now, and have not experienced any eye fatigue nor headaches. The team at Avegant is extremely focused on delivering an experience that allows endurance during use, while (other) VR-goggle companies tend to focus on immersion and head-tracking accuracy. Wide-angle, immersive displays currently seem to cause problems in many humans after more than half an hour of continuous use. Many are laggy and low-resolution, which could be part of the problem, and it will be interesting to see what happens as the technology improves.

A few casual notes about my first couple of hours using Glyph:

  • The picture is gorgeous, even at 720p, which is the standard input resolution (displayed at 720p per eye).
  • The picture is super bright, and actually feels too bright (even at its lowest setting) when using the headset in complete darkness.
  • The Glyph is pretty comfortable, but you should expect to have some serious red marks on your nose after you use it for awhile.
  • I didn't need the optional headband—it stayed on my face OK (they ship with a bunch of nose pieces, which should fit most faces).
  • The HDMI port location makes the cable press against pillows behind your head (and neck pillows). Avegant employees tell me they have used the headset for many hours without having any cable or port problems, but I've ordered a right-angle micro-HDMI adapter because the strain on the cable and port make me nervous. It feels like the standard cable should be a right-angle micro HDMI to full-size HDMI. Avegant tells me that sourcing high-quality HDMI cables, especially with a micro end, is tricky, which I believe.
  • I had a faulty HDMI cable, which caused video drop outs. Avegant replaced the cable immediately, and the new cable works well.
  • My 3-year old Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter does not consistently allow me to watch purchased content, giving me a "Cannot Play Movie; The connected display is not authorized to play protected movies." pop-up error on my iPhone 6s. The error pops up randomly, which is really annoying. I tried a new adapter, which seems to work reliably, but at $49 each, they are quite expensive. I am not happy that the Apple adapters are so finicky.

At the moment, it's hard to say whether I would opt to use the Glyph over, say, an iPad Pro, while in the comfort of my own home or in a hotel room. But on a plane, I might opt to use the Glyph to create a privacy cocoon around me—it would be especially useful to discourage conversations with a chatty seat-mate! The lack of active noise cancellation (ANC) might be annoying on a plane, but only because I'm so used to headphones with ANC.

I will likely be using the Glyph 100% for video content, and I wish there were a tiny HDMI player with great battery life that could be integrated. I know that I'm basically describing a phone, but all the cabling feels old school. Still, the Glyph is the only headset I've ever used that has image quality above the bar. It's totally acceptable and usable, which means that it is currently best in class. If headsets take off, it's certain that the technology is going to improve quickly. I'm not sure that the Cardboard-style "phone in a holder" headsets will ever produce a fantastic image, but smartphone displays do continue to get more and more dense, so who knows? Phones are currently already more than dense enough for non-head-mounted use, so the question is whether it will be worth it for manufacturers to make denser displays that target head-mounted use.

I plan to continue using the Glyph as much as possible to see what happens as I settle in with a headset that I can actually wear for long periods of time.