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A wearable display called i-glasses lets you take the show on the road.

By DAVE GUSSOW

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 1999


Even having their teeth drilled and filled doesn't stop Dr. Daniel McSherry's patients from laughing. It's not the procedure. It's not medication. They're watching a video.

"It really focuses them and pulls them away," said McSherry, a St. Petersburg dentist. "It's the ultimate distraction . . . and it really makes our work a little easier. We can just go to town."

McSherry's patients use a headset hooked into a VCR. They watch the video through the headset while McSherry and his staff do their work.

The latest incarnation of this headset (technically called a head-mounted personal display device) moves beyond videos into DVD, even video games. In fact, it literally moves.

It is portable.

i-O Display Systems in Menlo Park, Calif., (www.i-glasses.com) introduced the Televizer Portable DVD Theater this year, aiming for a market that includes traveling families (keep the kids occupied while you drive), travelers (avoid boring movies on planes), truckers (enjoy entertainment at rest stops), couples with different sleep patterns (watch a movie without disturbing your spouse), and doctors and dentists (just ask McSherry).

"It's a fun technology," said John James, i-O's general manager. "Put it on. Wow."

People also may say wow to the price: The company sells a package, including the i-glasses headset, a Panasonic portable DVD player about the size of a portable compact disc player and a carrying case for about $1,500.

photo
John James, general manager of i-O Display Systems of Menlo Park, Calif., demonstrates the i-glasses video display headset that is plugged into a portable DVD player. The headset weighs about 8 ounces and gives the user a view equivalent to watching an 80-inch TV set from about 11 feet away. [Times photo: Pam Royal]
The i-glasses can be purchased separately for about $500 and can be hooked to any DVD player, VCR or game console if you don't feel compelled to go portable.

As with most electronic devices, James expects prices will go lower eventually, but he didn't predict when or by how much.

"The concept is solid, but portable DVD plus these glasses are pretty expensive," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc., a high-tech consulting firm. "'They may attract early adopters and the high-end user market, but for this to be successful, both products will have to get down into true consumer pricing ranges."

Bajarin expects to see more mobile DVD players, but with built-in screens rather than headsets. In fact, Panasonic introduced the portable PalmTheater last year, with a price tag of about $1,300.

The Televizer system is easy to use. The headset, which weighs about 8 ounces, fits over glasses. It has an LCD display that gives the user a view equivalent to watching an 80-inch TV set from about 11 feet away. It includes headphones, as well as clip-on blinders that block distractions from peripheral vision.

The package includes a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 3.5 hours per charge. Multiple headsets can be attached to a DVD player, VCR or video game console.

James thinks the DVD market will continue to grow as consumers learn more about the format's crisp picture and sound quality. About 2,800 titles are available, and more are expected.

McSherry tries to keep his VCR playlist current, offering patients a two-page list of choices ranging from recent movies to sports to Jerry Springer. If the dental work is finished before the movie, the patient can sign out the video and return it later.

"It's one of the best things I've ever done," McSherry said.

 

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