Gaming peripherals were out in force at E3 2013, including virtual reality glasses you can actually buy now, an ultra cool Iron Man-styled headset you probably can’t, and gaming mice that let you cheat. DTS was also hand showing off their incredible surround-sound technology that can work with any headset, and will be coming to one near you later this year.
And don’t forget about Razer, who were also showing off their latest Blade gaming laptops, and both Mad Catz and Nvidia were out in force with their latest Android consoles, the Mad Catz M.O.J.O. and the Nvidia Shield.
Cinemizer OLED: Virtual Reality glasses you can buy now
Although the Oculus Rift has been getting a lot of press in the last year, it’s not yet available to consumers. But you can get the Zeiss Cinemizer OLED glasses today—provided you’re willing to pay a steep price.
The Cinemizer creates the equivalent of a 40 inch screen through twin 11mm displays, each running at a resolution of 870×500 at 2500 ppi (pixels-per-inch). (Just for comparison, an iPhone 5 runs at 1136×640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi.)
The Cinemizer is compatible with Nvidia’s 3Dvision, and it can be connected to a PC, a game console, or Blu-ray player through an analog A/V interface (included) or an HDMI interface. The Cinemizer can also be connected to an iPod/iPhone via an optional adapter not included with the base package.
To get the full ‘virtual reality’ experience, you’ll also need the optional head tracking attachment—a small device about the size of a thumb drive that attaches to the Cinemizer and connects to your PC through a USB port.
The Cinemizer weighs in at a dainty 3 ounces, and also includes rubber ear clips to help keep it securely attached to your face—particularly important for gaming with the head tracking attachment. Ear buds for stereo sound are also included.
If you want to completely eliminate all peripheral vision for the most immersive experience, you can buy a rubber mask that attaches to the inside of the glasses and seals out external light and other distractions. (You also can’t see your keyboard, which could potentially be a little problematic for PC gaming.)
Note that you can’t wear the Cinemizer over prescription glasses, but it does have small adjustment dials for each lens so you can adjust them to help compensate.
The Cinemizer runs on a lithium-ion battery capable of running up to 25 hours on a single charge.
Hands (and eyes) on
Zeiss demonstrated the Cinemizer OLED with the head tracking device and the optional ‘mask’ at E3 with Crysis 3. (The ear buds were not being offered as part of the demonstration because…well, eeew.)
At least casually, the Cinemizer certainly seems to offer everything the Oculus Rift is promising, albeit on (what feels like) a smaller screen. Regardless, it still worked quite well; the head tracking felt accurate and smooth, and the glasses are actually quite comfortable. (I didn’t experience any of the subtle but noticeable ‘head queasiness’ like I did with the Oculus Rift prototype when I played with it at PAX 2012, but to be fair it was a prototype.)
And the Cinemizer does more than just play games. It can also give you a movie theatre-like experience watching movies on your smartphone or laptop, and the Cinemizer’s size makes it quite travel friendly. If you don’t mind looking a little like a Cyborg in public, watching a movie on the Cinemizer during a flight would be a treat.
But even high-end Zeiss optics and sweet tech turn ugly when the price rears its ugly head(s). Premium optics command a premium price, and the Cinemizer OLED glasses will set you back around $750-800—and that’s just for the glasses, which includes the A/V analog cable and stereo ear buds. The optional head tracking unit will set you back another $219, and the mask to eliminate peripheral distractions another $39.
A4Tech: Metal feet that let you cheat
A4Tech was on hand to show off their Bloody gaming mice and keyboards. Their mice offer two interesting features that set them apart from similar peripherals:
Cyborg Feet: Bloody gaming mice have metal ‘feet’ designed to last 300 Kilometers of mouse distance, versus 3 Kilometers for typical Teflon feet used on most gaming mice.
Trajectory Adjustment: The Bloody mouse software goes well beyond macros and enables you to adjust the mouse’s aiming characteristics to compensate for the firing characteristics of different weapons in FPS (first person shooter) games.
For example, an AK47 as represented in most games has a lot of kick and tends to spray bullets in upward in a line. With the Bloody software, you can virtually eliminate the kick, and keep your aiming cursor almost laser-focused—compensating for the firing characteristics of the weapon to ensure every single shot hits the head (or wherever you’re aiming at).
You can create and store profiles for dozens of different weapons in different games—and numerous premade profiles will be available through the Bloody Web site—which you may need, because the Bloody software shown at E3 is robust but requires a little more effort than a typical macro recorder.
Another key Bloody product shown at E3 shown was the X7, a non-mechanical gaming keyboard. Its most interesting feature was also its most innocuous: rubber key caps you can put over the W-A-S-D keys and the arrow keys. They provide a nice tactile feel and make it easy to find ‘home’ on the keyboard. The macro buttons are also well-placed and within easy reach: near the left side of the keyboard and below the space bar.
E-Blue shows off the coolest headset you can never buy
E-Blue is a Hong Kong-based peripheral maker looking to expand in the US. Their most interesting products were two headsets—one of which you’ll never be able to buy in the United States.
The first headset (that you can buy) is the Mazer headset drew my attention because it has a design that (casually speaking) looks like it’s well designed. It features a comfortable suspension headband design, a retractable microphone, and a very nice inline controller that is a notch or two better than the inline controllers on most PC headsets. The Mazer reminded me of the SteelSeries Siberia V2 and offers comparable comfort. I didn’t get to listen to any audio however.
Iron Man fans—such as my kids—would positively love E-Blue’s gold and red Iron Man headset. E-Blue created these under contract with Marvel, but only for distribution outside the United States.
DTS theatre sound will be coming to a headset near you
“Today, every major film studio in the United States uses DTS multi-channel digital sound, and virtually all major Hollywood feature films are released with soundtracks in the DTS format.” (from DTS’ Web Site)
DTS demonstrated their DTS sound technology called Headphone: X, which can be used with any headset to create an impressive surround sound experience—even through a standard stereo headset.
Using a fairly typical, non-surround sound Sony headset, they seated me in a chair in front of a big screen TV with a 7.1 speaker system. Each speaker was about 3 feet away and placed in its optimal position.
Frist, they played a simple 7.1 sound test playing through each discreet channel on the speakers.
Then they followed up with the same sound test played through the Sony headphones. I actually removed the headset several times during the test to make sure the sound was coming from the headset and not the external surround speakers. Overall, the sound quality and acoustic reproduction was excellent for 7.1 virtual sound piped through a stereo headset.
DTS then played a selection of music—including Has Zimmer’s Man of Steel score—and they threw Killzone up on the PS3 for some gaming.
There’s no doubt their sound technology is impressive—and you’ll be seeing more DTS Headphone: X technology coming to a headset (gaming or otherwise) near you. Turtle Beach and DTS have already inked a deal so expect to see some Turtle Beach headsets featuring DTS technology later this year. It will be interesting to see what a high-end headset from Turtle Beach could do paired with DTS sound technology. Save a spot on your Xmas list.