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Panasonic Breaks the Mold on VR Headsets

Credit: Panasonic/Ars Technica

Virtual reality just entered a new era of style.

VR headsets have started to reach something of a singularity when it comes to design. Chunky boxes velcro’d to your face with ear-covering headphones; it works fine, sure, but it doesn’t look especially stylish. You sure as heck wouldn’t wear something like that in public (among a multitude of other, more obvious reasons). Panasonic has a new design cooking, and it’s quite a departure from the accepted norm of VR.

At CES, Panasonic revealed a prototype for a new kind of VR viewer, departing from the accepted box headset and opting for a pair of stylish glasses. The glasses, which are currently known only as “reference design,” feature micro OLED panels within the eyepieces that can, allegedly, produce a clearer picture without VR’s frequent screen door noise filter. The glasses also feature HDR colors, which most headsets don’t have yet. As for sound, the glasses feature built-in earbuds.

According to testimony from those who have gotten a hands-on experience, the glasses produce a VR experience that is surprisingly vivid, though not quite perfect. The eyepiece panels are smaller than a typical headset’s view, which means a smaller viewing angle, and the entire device is a bit front-heavy. Without straps or a skull mount, the glasses also have a tendency to fall off wearers’ faces.

But hey, if nothing else, Panasonic deserves praise for trying to advance the form of VR headsets after years of stagnation. Whether it’ll work remains to be seen, but it’s good to experiment.