Friday, March 16, 2012

Carl Zeiss announces curiously-designed Cinemizer OLED

Carl Zeiss of Germany has announced an improvement to their Cinemizer HMD line - the Cinemizer OLED. The company has announced several HMD products in the past, though not all of them seemed to have made it to market.

The product appears lightweight. battery-operated and nicely styled. It includes an option for a degree-of-freedom motion tracker. What I find curious is some of the design decisions made by Zeiss:

  • The optics provide only 30 degree diagonal field of view, which is very narrow. Since field of view is strongly tied to the sense of immersion, and since Zeiss is clearly a leader in optical design, why would the field of view be so narrow?
  • The resolution is very low. Each OLED provides just 870x500 pixels, which compares very unfavorably with other products in this price range. The product advertises that it is compatible with 720p (1280x720) video, but at 870x500 this means that it has to do some down-scaling which would cause loss of fidelity.
  • The IPD (the adjustable distance between the pupils) only covers 59 to 69 mm. Typically, products that strive to fit a wide range of users aim to allow 52 to 72 mm range, so the Cinemizer appears not to be a good fit for a large portion of the population. 
What is the use case for such product? With its low resolution, it would not qualify as a good media viewer (even if you believe in media viewers as good use cases). The motion tracker could point to a potential gaming usage, but the narrow field of view would not provide a compelling sense of immersion.

The videos and demonstrations show an architectural walk-through application. Is it a big enough market to justify a product release from a large company such as Zeiss?

I'd be happy to hear from the Zeiss people on their thoughts, and will report if I learn something new.