i-O Cordless Gaming System

i-O Cordless Gaming System


Introduction

3D Glasses for the PC are a fairly recent invention, and have been round since early 1999 – in more or less the same form. The technology behind them is much older than that, and early forms of stereoscopic viewing date all the way back the early 1900’s! These 3D glasses from i-O are top of the range, without diving into the realms of headset monitors. A huge misconception about these glasses is that people assume that small, colour LCD monitors are in place of lenses in these glasses... These type of glasses are available, but will cost £500+! The glasses from i-O however, use small LCD "Shutters" that can blink at the desired rate. These LCD shutters simply flash from transparent to opaque (one lens transparent, the other opaque at any instant) at a refresh rate ½ that of your monitor.

To achieve the 3D effect, you brain must be "tricked" into believing that it is seeing a 3D image from 2 different angles, and then combining these images into what seems do have depth. The ordinary CRT monitor that you probably use flickers 2 images from slightly different perspectives onto your screen (only in a D3D/Open GL game). When looking at this image without the glasses on, you will see a picture similar to this:

cordlessiglassesblur.jpg

Stereoscopic View Without 3D Glasses

This blurry image is actually the 2 perspectives combined, as you cannot detect the flicker so the images are combined. When you put the 3D glasses on, the LCD shutters show each eye every other frame:​


cordlessiglasseseyes.jpg


Because you see the image around 60 times a second per eye, your brain cannot distinguish the flicker and rolls the image into one, and believes it is seeing only 1 image from 2 different perspectives. With the glasses on, you can clearly see the added depth (something I had previously only see in museums and Imax cinemas). You are recommended to use a 120Hz refresh rate on your monitor (I normally use 85Hz). I found that using anything less than 120Hz with these on would case noticeable flicker, and anything less than 85hz would induce a nasty headache (it is possible to play at a mere 60Hz!). As the actual refresh rate you see if half that it normally would be, I suggest setting your monitor as high as it can go (even if sacrificing higher resolutions).

Minimum Requirements

Unfortunately, not all people will be able to run the i-O 3D Glasses as there are a few system requirements that must be met enabling use of them:

CRT Monitor - LCD and Plasma monitors will not work with the 3D glasses, as they do not refresh the picture in the same way, and will not be compatible with the dongle supplied.

NVIDIA/3Dfx Card - These are the only cards that the included software supports, so ATI/S3/Matrox owners are out of luck for the time being.

PS/2 Port - The PS/2 Port is required to power the dongle unit, unless you want to buy a separate power supply (i.e if you have USB ports only).

Included Items and Installation

Included Items

Everything you need to get started is included in the box, as well as a free bonus CD - "Sharks in 3D" (It doesn't particularly show off the glasses, not half as much as a good game).

cordlessiglassesincluded.jpg

What's in the box
  • Cordless 3D Glasses​
  • Dongle​
  • IR Transmitter​
  • Velcro Pad​
  • Monitor Pass-through connector​
  • Bonus Demo CD (Sharks in 3D)​
  • H3D Drivers​
  • Manual​
Installation

To install the glasses, you need to assemble and connect the assortment of goodies in the box. Firstly, connect the dongle and monitor pass-through connector together, and tighten the holding screws to make sure it doesn't slip. There is another cable sprouting off this, which is a PS/2 pass-through connector supplying power - connect your keyboard into the back of this, and then the whole connector into your original keyboard PS/2 port.​


cordlessiglassesdongle.jpg
cordlessiglassesmonitor.jpg

Dongle and Monitor Pass-through

The IR transmitter which tells the glasses when to flicker is then connected to the dongle, and then the transmitter is attached close to the monitor base/head with the Velcro pad. You must make sure that the IR transmitter points close to where your head is, as it is fairly directional.​

cordlessiglassesir.jpg

IR Transmitter

Now all that needs to be done is connect the dongle into your graphics card, and the monitor cable into the pass-through cable. The hardware side of things is sorted, and the PC can be booted into windows as usual (nothing will be different as yet). If you have a 3Dfx card, install the drivers on the CD... on the other hand, if you have an NVIDIA card, go to their website and download the "3D Stereo Drivers" for your graphics card. The instructions do not suggest this, and want you to use the supplied drivers, but believe me, the NVIDIA ones are much better and offer up-to-date drivers.

Performance

As performance isn't a quantifiable matter when talking about most features of the 3D Glasses, most of the performance results will be subjective comments based on my own opinion. After having these glasses in my hands for almost a month now, I have use them most days in games such as Jedi Knight II : Outcast and Medal of Honour : Allied Assault, which is a reasonable time to adjust to the glasses and judge the performance as such.

In the first hour after installing the glasses, the first thing I tried was the NVIDIA 3D demo. I was initially amazed, as it did look 3D, I could see "past" the monitor and focus on objects in the distance. It was slightly uncomfortable, as the separation of the 2 images displayed (corresponding to the depth perception) was set very high, and I was not used to this. Once I had lowered the level down to 10% separation and began playing Black and White, the realism was incredible, yet comfortable to look at.

Almost a month later, with the level of separation set to 50%, I can tell a huge difference in depth when looking back at 10%. This is about the maximum level of separation that I can comfortably achieve. If the level is set any higher than this, my eyes detect that there really are 2 pictures and I can no longer focus behind the screen. Games really do immerse you, especially Medal of Honour : Allied Assault - my in game performance decreased slightly (mainly because I am not yet used to this in game play), but the game was very much more enjoyable.

One problem I find with games is when an object is supposed to be at the forefront of view, i.e. a crosshair. In Medal of Honour : Allied Assault, whenever I was about to shoot at something, I would obviously aim via the crosshair... this was in front of an object supposedly 50 meters away, and it was very uncomfortable actually trying to focus on the cross hair and the object (not a problem in 2D). It takes some getting used to this, but for the first week, any object shown close to the front of the screen was uncomfortable to look at.

This sort of problem would not make competition level playing with them a viable option, until you became completely used to them. I can only now use them for a couple of hours and feel comfortable. It does take a few weeks to get perfectly used to them, and to find a comfortable level of image separation.

I cannot stress enough how much more immersed you feel in a game, especially when coupled with a good sound system. Having an inexpensive system like this really puzzles me as to why it is not a more common piece of hardware, when it gives such good results.

When you want to start a game using the 3D effect, you must load a D3D/Open GL game up, and wait for the screen to show the "blur" effect. You can then put the glasses on, and press an "activate" button. This initialises the flickering of the glasses, and you are ready to play. As this is the cordless version of the 3D Glasses, they are powered by 2 lithium batteries - I expect they should last for a good amount of hours, as turning an LCD on/off does not require much current.

In game frame rates did drop when the video card had to render a different picture to usual, but it was only a 20% performance hit at its maximum point - nothing noticeable when you are playing at 60+ FPS. The glasses will automatically enable when a D3D/Open GL application is loaded, an a hotkey can be set to toggle between 3D/2D modes.

cordlessiglassesglasses.jpg

The Cordless Glasses


The glasses look like something you'd get in a happy meal at McDonalds - not something you'd want to go out in at any rate. They are not as comfortable as sunshades when wearing, but with electronics this has in it, I don't suppose they could be. They certainly aren't uncomfortable to wear, but they could have put pads on the part that sits on the bridge of your nose - as opposed to an acrylic bridge.​


They weigh in at about 30g, which is light enough to wear without causing strain or slipping. If you are a wearer of eye-glasses, you will have to check to see if you can wear these over the top. I have a pair of slim line glasses that I occasionally wear and they slot inside these no problem, but if you have large or round glasses I can imagine a few problems!​

Conclusion

After extensive and rigorous testing in every 3D game I could lay my hands on (a hard job, but someone has to do it!), I can safely say that this made a huge improvement to how much I enjoyed the games. Microsoft Flight Simulator was another game that particularly stood out, the depth perception was incredible and really added to the experience.

If you are a frag-a-holic in games like Counter Strike, this may not be for you (unless you want to spend a long time re-learning). These 3D glasses are more of a new component to add extra realism to a game, not a tool to make it easier.

The i-O Glasses are compatible with any NVIDIA card capable of running 3D games, as well as 3Dfx cards if you own one. These glasses are not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but once you are used to them there is no looking back. Anyone into RTS's, Simulation Games, or FPS's should consider getting one of these to boost enjoyment. Be sure that you have a compatible PC if you get one, and check that your monitor can reach 120Hz for optimal gaming, any less and you could get headaches.

Author
Ian Cunningham
First release
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