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First look: Sony's 3-D TV worn on your head [Video]

November 5, 2011 |  2:03 pm

Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Sony is making a bet that it can succeed where others have failed -- TVs strapped to your head.

The Japanese consumer electronics giant has begun selling the Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer, a viewfinder-looking gadget that sells for $799.99 and will arrive to retailers next week.

The HMZ-T1 is the product of a prototype head-mounted personal 3-D TV shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. When I first saw the prototype at CES, visions of Cyclops from the X-Men and Geordi La Forge from Star Trek were the first things that popped into my mind.

Quickly after that, I thought of the many failed attempts to sell consumers personal TVs and 3-D viewers over the years. Much of the mainstream has not shown a want or need for something like Nintendo's Virtual Boy.

On Thursday, Sony spokesman Aaron Levine stopped by the Los Angeles Times to give us a bit of hands-on time with the HMZ-T1.

I tried it out for about 20 minutes and I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed watching a 3-D trailer for the new "Amazing Spider-Man" movie (the trailer was on a Blu-ray disc) and playing Gran Turismo 5 in 3-D on the PlayStation 3 into which the headset was plugged.

Frankly, the idea of having a small TV set in front of my eyes was one I thought I wouldn't enjoy at all. But, in my brief time with the TMZ-1, the experience was novel, enjoyable and not bothersome as I expected. The picture was clear, the 3-D was crisp and colors were bright. I'm not a big fan of 3-D TVs -- the glasses can be uncomfortable and the picture often looks dim. So far, this was a different experience altogether.

A few colleagues who also gave the headset a shot weren't as impressed and described a slight feeling of "car sickness" from playing Gran Turismo with the headset on. This isn't a product for everyone based on experience alone, not to mention that $800 price tag.

I'll have to reserve any final judgments on the HMZ-T1 before Sony sends over a review unit and I can put the device through its paces, watch a full-length film or two and play more PlayStation games.

It should be noted though, that the HMZ-T1 can display 2-D and 3-D video in 720p high-definition and features two tiny 0.7-inch OLED screens (one for each eye) and a set of headphones pumping audio in 5.1 surround sound into your ears.

Sony formally launched the HMZ-T1 on Thursday, just before Levine stopped by The Times, not at one of its Sony Style stores but at a local Southern California retailer, Video and Audio Center, in Lawndale.

Video and Audio Center spokesman Tom Campbell said it spawned a line of more than 100 "looky loos and early adopters."

Neither Sony officials nor Campbell would say just how many of the headsets have been sold so far, but the first HMZ-T1 did sell at Video and Audio Center on Thursday.

Sony wouldn't leave the HMZ-T1 with us, but a review unit is coming soon, so stay tuned into the Technology blog for a deeper look at the Personal 3D Viewer.

Until then, feel free to sound off in the comments and share your impressions so far.

Do you think this is the type of product that will ever catch on with consumers? Is $800 a fair price for a such a new device? Would you be willing to try and watch TV, a movie or play video games on such a headset, particularly for an extended period of time?

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: The Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer wearable TV set. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times