The notion of strapping a huge TV to your face might seem like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, but with £180,000 of crowdfunding raised so far, DreamGlass 4K isn't some ill-conceived fantasy – it's happening right now, and we've been lucky enough to get some hands-on time with a beta unit to see what all of the fuss is about.
This lightweight headset offers a pin-sharp image which is apparently the equivalent of looking at a 200-inch TV screen from 3 meters away. It offers a 90-degree field of vision, has its own internal speakers and can connect to any device which has HDMI – and, as you might expect given its current high profile, the company behind the Dream Glass 4K has featured Switch heavily in its promotion; it's even creating a special micro-dock connector so the unit can be used with Nintendo's console more elegantly (carrying around the original dock isn't exactly convenient).
At 185 grams, the Dream Glass 4K headset is surprisingly light and is secured to your head using a rubber strap; a foam cushion rests on your forehead to make things more comfortable. The headset is then connected to a rather bulky remote control, which also houses the 8000mAh battery required to power the device. Around 5 hours of use are provided by a single charge, according to the spec sheet. Inside, there's a 1.8GHz quad-core chip aided by a Mali-T864 GPU, as well as 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.
The remote control allows you to navigate the Dream Glass 4K's UI, which is based on Google's Android platform. There's an option for configuring the distance between your eyes, which is vital to achieving the desired image (everyone is different in this respect, you see), and we spent quite some time in this menu trying to find the right setting for us. Because your eyes are being fooled into thinking they're looking at something which is further away, it takes some time to strike the perfect focal setup.
Once you've got the unit working as desired, you can view images or movies from a USB source (there's a USB-A port on the top of the remote) or download apps such as YouTube or Netflix. 3D support is also available for content which supports it, and there's a strong focus on Augmented Reality applications – something which places the Dream Glass 4K in competition with Microsoft's more expensive Hololens 2.
However, for us, it's the gaming focus which is of most interest. As we said, the Dream Glass 4K works with any HDMI source, presenting a massive viewing area which you can effectively take with you anywhere you go. While you could argue that the Switch – with its existing focus on mobility – makes a product like this redundant, but being able to play on a screen which fills your entire view and is pin-sharp is a real boon (even if the Switch can't reach the 4K resolution this headset is capable of). The image quality really is quite remarkable, and because your face isn't totally covered, you still have some idea of what is going on in the world around you, which means you don't feel as closed-off as you would playing on a VR headset.
We used the Dream Glass 4K for prolonged periods of time with a wide range of HDMI-ready systems (4K content really does look remarkable, with not a blocky pixel in sight) and found the device to be pretty comfortable to use; as we touched upon previously, getting the right pupil distance is absolutely vital to an enjoyable experience, so it's worth tinkering with this if something feels off.
On the downside, the unit's stereo speakers are utterly pathetic; they're weak and lack bass, and they distort at anything approaching full volume. The included 3.5mm headphone jack is essential, then; you also have the option of connecting wireless headphones via Bluetooth or linking the headset to a Bluetooth speaker. Elsewhere, the Dream Glass 4K also becomes very hot after prolonged use, while the detachable mirrored lens at the front falls off too easily and feels like it's likely to snap at any moment. Also, the battery life we got from a single charge wasn't anywhere near the suggested 5 hours. All of these points are hardly encouraging for such an expensive piece of tech, but it's worth noting that a lot of the issues may well be unique to the beta versions of the hardware – we're not testing a final production unit here.
While the Dream Glass 4K's Indiegogo campaign is off to a flying start, with a suggested price tag of over $600 this clearly isn't an option for casual buyers who simply want to play games or watch movies on a pair of futuristic goggles. We'd wager it's the Dream Glass 4K's AR capabilities which are driving its crowdfunding campaign; AR apps built using Unity will function on the device, and the unit's head-tracking functionality allows it to host all kinds of AR-related programs, which means Dream Glass 4K is a significantly cheaper alternative to Hololens 2 (approximately $3500) and Magic Leap ($2300).
If you're still interested, then you can back the Dream Glass 4K campaign for as little as $379. While we wouldn't class this as the ultimate accessory for gamers who want the big-screen experience, it's certainly interesting to use and could pave the way for a flood of similar products in the future.
We'd like to thank DreamWorld for supplying the beta unit used to create this feature.