The display-goggle revolution is finally upon us. You can now buy USB-C powered glasses-form-factor displays that output a perfectly acceptable 1080p, 1920×1080, which is entirely adequate for all of my email and programming tasks on the road. Follows are notes on my experience using these display glasses for all sorts of out-and-about computing. I won’t be reviewing any of the AR/XR functionality, as I think that’s a techno/social dead end without a few more technological breakthroughs in building and inhabiting virtual spaces together.
Read on for my review of these display glasses.
My line on virtual reality and augmented reality has been boringly the same for approximately 5 years now: “I don’t care about any of the fancy head tracking, gaze tracking, display superposition on the visual field, none of it. I care about two things: weight, and display resolution.”
Why do I only care about these things? Because I am tired of hunching over laptop screens, and ruining my back in all sorts of awkward positions trying to type on a surface six inches away from the display area. The laptop, despite how far it’s come, is a fundamentally unsound user interface device. The human must crunch their spine in order to get eyes close enough to the display to use it.
Correct ergonomic use of computers has been a solved problem for years. The spine should be erect. Arms should be open to approximately 120º. Hands should never be rotated towards the torso, as that imposes strain on the wrists; if possible, hands should even droop downwards from the wrist. The whole goal of all of this is to keep the body in strong positions and minimize damage over time.
A 1080p display in each eye fixes the spine part of this problem. I can now go full Stevie Wonder mode while typing out this blog post, and never need to move my face closer to the display to see tiny little programmer characters. I can even sit at a table now without irritating my sciatic nerve, as I can look up and away from the laptop that I’m typing on and give my sciatic nerve the extra slack that it needs for me to prop my foot up on another chair while sitting at the table.
The Air’s come with a variety of nose bridges, and an additional frame for glasses lenses. I have a pretty stiff prescription (-7.0, -8.0), and unfortunately this correction and the thickness that it demands produces pretty bad fringing around the edges of the display area. I just wear my contacts now.
Optics are pretty great, the display density is good, I’m pretty surprised at the display tech one can buy for 400 dollars these days. Moore’s Law isn’t dead, it’s merely showing up in unexpected places like perpetually larger and brighter and cheaper and with-better-blacks televisions, and apparently with tiny displays that are going to get progressively tinier and lighter (and one hopes less power-hungry, the Air draws ~5W). The glasses are light enough to wear for extended periods (I routinely use them for 3+ hour working sessions).
So, get your touch typing skills on! The next display paradigm for mobile computing is upon us.