The consumer electronics industry has long had a fascination with video headsets. They tend to make cyclical appearances, promising ever more futuristic delights.
From the early days of Virtual Reality to goggles with integrated TV screens, this sub-genre of oddball tech is nothing new. Even Sony has been here before, with its Glasstron eyeware, released in the US during the late 1990s.
But the Sony HMZ-T1 3D Head Mounted Display is rather different. It's without doubt the most elaborate personal viewer to reach the consumer market. It's a good deal more advanced than rival 2D/3D viewers from Vuzix, such as the Vuzix iWear AV310, and employs high-resolution OLED panels.
In short, this new Sony contraption actually works. But that doesn't guarantee anyone is actually going to buy it.
The Sony HMZ-T1 is a two-piece set, comprising the 3D viewer itself and an HDMI dual output switcher. A single cable links the two, delivering sound, vision and power. Any HDMI source can be connected, from a set-top box to Blu-ray player.
Distribution is limited to Sony stores. This is clearly not a mass market item, a fact that's reflected in the £800/ US$799 price tag.
Of course, if you're buying the Sony HMZ-T1 as an alternative to a super-large screen 3D TV or even a video projector system, the asking price could be construed as fairly reasonable. If you want a cinematic viewing experience but simply don't have the space to accommodate a physical display (perhaps your super-yacht just isn't big enough for a dedicated cinema cabin?) it's a compelling solution.
Sony says watching a movie with the HMZ-T1 is similar to munching popcorn in the stalls of a 750-inch cinema screen, with a viewing angle of 45 degrees. There's even a slight, subtle tilt to the OLED panels to emulate that big-screen effect.
It's not just about video though: a pair of on-ear stereo headphones is integrated into the headset shell. Volume, menu and settings controls are located on the underside of the viewer. Here you'll also find sliders beneath each eyepiece to adjust focus.
Remember, though, that the system isn't wireless and doesn't work on batteries. Consequently you're very much tethered to both your source and a power supply. The dual output switcher rather conveniently has an HDMI v1.4 pass-though so that it can sit unobtrusively in your equipment rack, routing signals to your headset when required.
As an executive toy, it's likely to be highly desirable. It's possible also that the system could bring big screen thrills to the infirm or bedridden.