There certainly wasn't a shortage of smart eyewear at CES this year. Shortly after our encounter with Vuzix SMART Glasses we ran across these formidable looking SmartGoggles from Sensics. The Natalia Immersive SmartGoggles provide an ideal platform from which to deliver a powerful immersive gaming experience and as a result, they take up a considerable amount of space - "SmartHelmet" might be a more accurate description. But the bulkiness is quickly forgotten when you look at the hardware that's packed under the shell of this 360-degree 3D gaming and entertainment video rig.
The biggest differentiating feature of the SmartGoggles is that they're fitted with an actual on-board computer. The Natalia Immersive SmartGoggles you can see on the image above sports a 1.2 GHz dual core chip with a 3D graphics co-processor. The battery operated unit runs on Android 4.0 (though Windows is also supported) and can handle on-board applications without a connection to an external rig, such as a PC, a gaming console, a tablet or a smartphone. There's a microphone which handles speech recognition, GPS, an in-built modem, SD card slot and thanks to an array of cameras, including a hi-definition one, the gear can support AR and face recognition and can also manage head and hand tracking. Users should prepare for a lot of limb-flailing fun when controlling the user interface or interacting with a game.
Even when connected to an external mobile device, the headwear can chip in with some of its on-board processing power (e.g. graphics and real time interaction can be handled by the goggles while the handset deals with the user interface). Head and hand tracking information can be relayed to the other device via Bluetooth, WiFi or an old fashioned wire. When paired with a more powerful machine, like a gaming PC or a console, the SmartGoggles can be used not only as a display (via a HDMI port), but also as a means of controlling the user interface with gestures and movement.
We tried out the SmartGoggles on a basic game where you became a kind of virtual King Kong, smashing down buildings and plucking helicopters from the sky with your bare hands. The brief test was impressive - the (albieit basic) graphics were smooth and the tracking of your head and body movements, as well as your hands in front of the camera, crisply responsive. The unit isn't as ungainly as it looks once adjusted correctly, although when jumping from rooftops during the game (which involved physically jumping) the bulk of the headset did hit home. There is clearly huge potential here though.
The Immersive Natalia SmartGoggles sport dual SXGA (1280x1024) OLED displays with 720p support. The company is also working on see-through goggles (called Marina) to complement the immersive ones. Not only would this reduce the risk of falling over the coffee table while gaming, see-through goggles would lend themselves to a variety of AR applications.
Although the SmartGoggles clearly cater towards the needs of gamers, Sensics envisions its head gear - in this and smaller versions - being used for military and professional applications. The unit on display at CES is a prototype that the company is providing to content developers and consumer electronics companies with a view to collaborating on an affordable version based on the technology that can be brought to market - we can't wait to see it on the shelves.
Sensics' introductory video is below: