The eMagin Z800 3DVisors simulate the experience of watching 105in display from 12ft away. OLED technology uses a thin panel that emits a bright light source. The panels use a CMOS silicon substrate that buffers data being fed to the goggles for each pixel and then reconstructs the image so that there is absolutely no flicker during viewing.
The 3DVisors also provide head tracking using a USB connection – so you can move the mouse with your head. This means that when you look around, the display moves at the same time.
The goggles are designed for PC use and include a standard VGA connection cable. The benefits are profound: more portability and more immersion. Yet when testing the product, it became clear that there's something not quite right about the goggles. They tend to cause nausea in a first-person shooter because it's so easy to lose your bearings.
An LCD monitor actually draws you in to a game more effectively because you can keep your bearings from stationary objects around you as you slug through an open-air sewer looking for alien bugs to blast into oblivion.
The Vuviz iWear AV920 – which do not provide head tracking – are similar to the 3DVisors in that they project a huge image (in this case, about 62in). The AV920 will work with an Apple iPod Video or a portable DVD player (or any RCA video source) and run for about five hours on one battery charge. Instead of using OLED, the AV920 uses two 640x480 LCD displays that you look through for a projected image.
The LCD projection technology is still in an early state: the goggles don't support widescreen viewing and aren't wireless, so you have to use at least one AV cable to connect to your mobile device. However, the iWear AV920 gives a brighter and crisper experience than the 3DVisors, thanks to a wider colour gamut of one million colours. During a multiplayer match of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars on an Xbox 360, the AV920 goggle display looked crisp and colourful, although like the 3DVisors, they did cause slight nausea.
It's possible that video goggles will never become a viable viewing technology for gaming – or any other computing technology – because the display seems to float in space, meaning that you can't get your bearings.
One solution to this problem may be to re-create stationary objects at high resolution. If the goggles emitted a table and desk in the room, with the moving image running on a virtual wall or even a virtual television, your eyes would adjust to the movement.
Say goodbye to lag
The most burgeoning technology for PC and consoles has to do with networking and multiplayer gaming. Several companies are focusing on latency issues. They're trying to solve problems that occur when your bandwidth can't keep up with the intensity and frame rate of the on-screen action.
The D-Link DGL 4500 X-Treme N Gaming Router uses GameFuel technology to give priority to packets used for multiplayer games and reduce throughput for other activities – such as downloading a file. The reason: when a download takes a few minutes longer, you don't notice, but when you're coming around a corner ready to fire a rocket launcher in Halo 3 and the screen pauses for a second due to latency, it's a little bit more obvious. Streaming media adaptors such as the Roku Netflix Player and the Apple TV also have the same latency problem: you can easily spot stuttering video frames.
One way of solving the problem is to do with software in the game itself. In the new Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game Age of Conan: Hyperion Adventures, there is very little drag during online multiplayer sessions because the code used for online gaming is constantly predicting the players' movements and filling in polygons as you move. Even if you experience a slight slowdown over your broadband connection, it's less likely that you will see any pausing on the screen than in previous generation MMOs.
This technology will eventually make its way into other computing paradigms: pervasive networks that are aware of your location, voiceover- IP applications, video chats over the Internet and scientific simulations between geographically dispersed laboratories can all immediately benefit from latency reducing programming techniques. For the most part, it's a predictive technology: the software is smart enough to know what should happen next both graphically and programmatically, even if the network is not running as fast as it should to present the next image.
Overall, gaming technologies are increasingly looking outside the box and redefining what computing means. Over the next 20 years, we can expect more 3D manipulation that uses any surface for a display, a drag-and-drop programming mindset for more free-form interaction with objects on the screen, and predictive networking technologies that use artificial intelligence to predict your needs and future actions.