Technically Computex 2011 doesn’t start for another day, but already companies are announcing new hardware right ahead of the event in order to try to beat the rush. NVIDIA is one of those companies; at Computex they’re announcing their new wired 3D Vision glasses.

As a bit of background, since the introduction of 3D Vision in 2009 the hardware has remained relatively unchanged. NVIDIA launched with their wireless 3D Vision glasses kit at $199; more recently they dropped the price down to $149, but other than a slightly tweaked revision of the glasses offering double the battery life, the glasses themselves haven’t changed. Meanwhile, though wireless glasses are generally going to be the best way to use an active shutter 3D system, it does have a couple of downfalls: there’s only so much cost cutting that can be done, the need to have batteries and USB connectors on-board dictates design to some degree, and $150 objects that are not tied down tend to grow legs and walk away.

As the market for 3D Vision expands, driven by declining prices for the necessary 120Hz LCD monitors, NVIDIA has finally had to deal with these problems, both to keep costs in-line with cheaper monitors and to build a set of glasses suitable for some new markets. The result is that we’ve come full-circle: 3D shutter glasses are now wired once again.

Being announced today and shipping in late June are the NVIDIA 3D Vision wired glasses, which NVIDIA intends to fill the above niche. As the name implies, it’s a set of 3D vision glasses that are wired – in this case using USB 2.0 – instead of the wireless glasses + hub solution that NVIDIA’s wireless kit uses. By ditching the batteries and the IR gear, and by integrating the functions of the 3D Vision hub into the USB connector itself, NVIDIA has been able to cut production costs. Priced at $99, these are intended to be the new low-end glasses to go with the aforementioned cheaper 120Hz monitors, while the wireless glasses will continue to be offered at $149. Besides the fact that the wireless glasses are wireless, it looks like the other features differentiating the two will be the 3D Vision control functionality the wireless hub offers - convergence controls and turning 3D Vision on & off - as there's no analog on the wired glasses.

The wired glasses will also be serving as NVIDIA’s first official foray into LAN/cyber-café business. As wireless glasses can’t be easily secured and can be easily stolen, NVIDIA designed and will be pitching the wired glasses as a practical alternative to café owners that want to offer 3D Vision without their investments walking out the door. The wired glasses feature a Kensington lock slot in the USB connector/hub, which means the glasses can be locked down like the rest of a café’s hardware. We wouldn’t venture to guess just how many cafes are actually interested in offering 3D Vision right now, but clearly NVIDIA believes it’s a worthwhile market to chance.

The existing wireless glasses

Finally, in spite of the wired nature of the glasses, they may end up being more comfortable than the existing wireless glasses. NVIDIA isn’t heavily promoting it, but the wired glasses do have a different fit thanks to the fact that there’s no longer a need to embed batteries, IR receivers, or a controller into the glasses themselves. Of the few different editors here at AnandTech that have used the wireless 3D Vision glasses, the most common complaint is the fit; as the glasses are one size fits all, we’ve found that the glasses pinch our (apparently) big heads. Although only NVIDIA really has any data to back up how many users shy away from 3D Vision due to the fit of the glasses, we suspect we’re not the only ones that the existing glasses poorly fit – the merits of the technology mean little if the glasses themselves can’t be worn comfortably for any length of time. Once we receive our sample glasses we’ll be taking a look at the fit to see if these are any better than the wireless glasses.

Wrapping things up, the wired glasses will cost $99 and be shipping in late June from NVIDIA and other retailers. NVIDIA hasn’t talked about any long-term plans for the wired glasses, but we wouldn’t rule out the possibility that they’re going to replace the wireless glasses in monitor bundles that already include glasses. A few manufacturers are building the IR transmitter directly into the monitor’s bezel these days, but for the rest this would be another way to bring down the price of a complete 3D Vision kit.

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  • peternelson - Monday, May 30, 2011 - link

    It is interesting to see this range expanding.

    First was Nvidia 3D VISION. When you describe it as wireless you could say Infra-Red Wireless to more fully explain how the technology works.

    "As a bit of background, since the introduction of 3D Vision in 2009 the hardware has remained relatively unchanged."

    Ryan, I feel the story would be improved if you had also mentioned the 3D Vision PRO version, which overcomes some limitations. That is Radio-Freqency based Wireless. It is also bi-directional, so can confirm the glasses are present and operational, more reliable, better range and more scalable. I believe from Nvidia site information that accelerometers on the glasses are a current or future option, allowing your head motion to be sent back to influence the viewed display. So, Nvidia were not standing still on the technology, and perhaps some of that may trickle down into the consumer range.

    Although Nvidia are segmenting the market to Gforce (3d Vision) and Quadro (3d Vision PRO), I'd be interested to know if they are in fact interchangeable between the two types of GPU cards (Ask Nvidia or test it out). I know I would prefer the RF based product, even at the higher pricing.

    In the glasses with batteries, recharging could be a problem, for example if you have a non-stop gaming session of over 24 hours (without bringing spare glasses to swap over to).

    An improvement would be battery powered glasses that could be recharged by plugging in a USB tether temporarily. If either consumer or pro versions has an accelerometer, for more immersive use, it's best if that tether would be removable to not have your head movement restricted by the tethering wire.

    I can see why they considered a more physically secure option for cyber cafes, but I think this could lead to accidental breakages. When a gamer stands up to reach for a can of Relentless or use the bathroom, they may forget about the tether cable, and it looks thin enough to break easily under strain. I think they were forced to take this route for many-user scenarios like a gaming cafe because of the problems of multiple players each needing IR bouncing around. The individual GPUs, monitors and glasses are not genlocked, so each needs its own sync signal, and the close proximity to the adjacent player makes IR problematic.

    I think the problem of people stealing glasses is better dealt with in other ways, eg collect them as cinemas do, require a returnable deposit, so why you pay for your time you get the glasses deposit back by returning the glasses, or using store tagging passive RF the way a conventional retailer detects shoplifting at the exit.

    For example then a museum visitor could view multiple 3d exhibits and walk around wearing the same pair of glasses without having to keep putting on new pairs of tethered glasses at each exhibit. When they leave they must hand over the glasses or an alarm will sound at the exit.

    I do agree that they need more than one size. For example for teenage and big-headed adult. It's a comfort issue of having things clamping the side of your head. Being adult hand sized, I would make the same observation of Playstation PS3 controllers.

    It's unfortunate that various television manufacturers have not or can't standardise their synchronisation standards to be cross compatible in glasses. I imagine in time some universal translator may arrive on the market.

    One nice solution is PASSIVE 3D television of which LG have a good model, where you can use cheap polarised lens glasses, that don't need active switching or batteries. This becomes particularly cost effective when you have a large family or large number of guests visiting your home.

    I'd like Nvidia glasses to gain accelerometers ASAP, and for similar reasons, eye movement tracking built into the glasses too would be a useful enhancement. eg in First person shooter, turn head to alter view, move eyes to focus aiming target. With some coding the effort, the targetting could support multiple users looking at the same screen, selecting individual targets, like 2 player cooperative game.

    The original glasses seem affordable on ebay, perhaps people find them painful to wear.

    The ideal product would be the reliable bidirectional RF solution with temporary tethering for recharging, headsize adjustment and compatible with the entire range of GPUs (enthusiast and professional). If they could make the same glasses work with 3d television protocols and have screen input lag compensation, it will be more useful/cost justifiable.
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, May 30, 2011 - link

    "Although Nvidia are segmenting the market to Gforce (3d Vision) and Quadro (3d Vision PRO), I'd be interested to know if they are in fact interchangeable between the two types of GPU cards (Ask Nvidia or test it out). I know I would prefer the RF based product, even at the higher pricing."

    I actually asked about that back at the 2010 NV GPU Tech Conference, as NVIDIA had several exhibits using the Pro system. The answer at the time was that it's not compatible; Pro only works on Quadro cards. Apparently this has since changed, as looking at the Pro FAQ it now explicitly mentions that Pro works on GeForce cards. However given the price - $750 - it's not even in the same league as the consumer IR glasses.
  • peternelson - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    Thanks Ryan, I'm glad to hear someone is asking the right questions.

    It's good news that the pro system will now work with Geforce too.

    I realise that the price is expensive, but consider this:

    Let's imagine I do high end CAD and visualisation on a Quadro based system.

    But at heart I'm also a gamer so also have a rig for gaming using GeForce.

    I don't want to invest in two different incompatible 3D systems, I want just to be able to use my pairs of glasses with either system, have one transmitter, maybe sharing the same 3D monitor (which are also not cheap) through a switch box. Maybe I buy the PRO system for professional use, and want to do a bit of gaming with it as a bonus.

    Admittedly, there may also be some reconnection of the transmitter unit required between base units, but it seems a neater solution just to standardise on the PRO components and save duplicated buying.

    In a competitive gaming scenario I think the RF solution could give me an edge. Particularly I was thinking of making a "TV-be-gone" type handheld IR zapper that could interfere with my rivals IR glasses (change to the opposite shutter polarity for a cross eyed effect, or completely blind them for half a second?) while I headshot them! It would good for a LOL, and to attract their attention to my superior technology, obviously repeated use would be cheating.
  • LordOfTheBoired - Monday, May 30, 2011 - link

    So the wired glasses are, in theory, capable of having a better fit due to fewer components in the actual glasses. Which also makes them lighter.
    But doesn't do squat for me, based on that prototype photo.

    Am I literally the only person in the world that ALREADY wears glasses and is still interested in 3D? Is there NO market at all for 3D glasses that fit over prescription glasses?
  • peternelson - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    Good point, but remember, this is developed by Nvidia, a technology company.

    Perhaps they are assuming anyone who needs vision adjustment would pay to have laser eye surgery. It can cost around the same as a high end graphics card in my country.

    Then again, assuming you had the money, it will be a tough call between what to spend it on: getting your eyes fixed, or owning the latest GTX 590 card ;-) We can't assume everyone will choose the eye surgery.

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