Vuzix Corporation, a Rochester-based maker of smart glasses and video eyewear, has broadened its presence in the video gaming industry recently with an expanded game support for the iWear headset.

The list of supported games now stands at 120 — including popular titles like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Halo, MS Flight Simulator and Half-Life 2.

Virtual reality (VR) has been bandied about as a potentially huge trend in technology since at least the 1990s. Up until now, widespread commercial success has failed to materialize.

A new generation of VR-capable devices have been emerging into the marketplace recently, however, leading some experts to speculate that the technology could finally take off.

“There are a lot more big names backing VR these days, so I’d expect more of a chance that it will break through,” said Jessica Bayliss, associate director of Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Games and Media. “I think we’re still waiting for the ‘killer app’ for VR right now.”

Just this month, at the GDC 2016 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco — called the world’s largest professional game industry event, according to its website — virtual reality talks were so popular that organizers moved into a large hall because ofthe interest.

James Senall, president of the nonprofit High Tech Rochester, believes having a pioneer like Vuzix Corporation in the potentially burgeoning field of virtual reality could be a boon for the area.

“They were way ahead of the curve with virtual reality headsets, so it’s great to see that the market has finally caught up to them,” Senall said. “Having companies at the forefront of the fast-expanding VR market is great for Rochester, and shows the innovation that is happening here. Other startups, like NullSpace VR, are also in this space. And with RIT’s nationally ranked gaming programs, Rochester could really become a hub for the future of gaming and VR.”

While some issues with the technology remain, such as the immersive nature of virtual reality causing motion sickness in some users, interest is definitely percolating again, Bayliss said.

In addition to high-definition gaming and video apps, the headset also supports virtual reality and augmented reality use. Augmented reality involves superimposing video elements over a user’s view of the real world.

As with other Vuzix devices, the iWear incorporates built-in video screens that enable the user to view and interact with video and digital content.

QA with CEO

Vuzix Corporation president and CEO Paul Travers  a few questions recently about the expanded library and how it fits into the company’s plans for the iWear. The company is located in Henrietta:

Question: What is Vuzix’s overall plan for the iWear?

Answer: The iWear is the first in a new generation of devices for entertainment coming from Vuzix. Our ultimate goal is sunglasses with 100-plus degree fields of view that mix the real world with the digital world, not just immersive VR like most of the competition.

Q: Could you speak to future developments for the project?

A: In the long run, our goal is to migrate from immersive content and devices, which are typically enjoyed alone, to augmented reality devices and content that will connect the real world to the digital world and be used in practically every part of life. Vuzix sees augmented reality, and the smart glasses that we will deliver, as the next replacement for the smartphone or even the PC.  It’s going to be very exciting as this technology evolves and Vuzix will help to drive it with our amazing waveguide optics.

Q:  Virtual Reality seems to be an emerging trend right now. How does the iWear compare and differ from competitors, such as the Oculus Rift?

A: We don’t really try to compete with Oculus with the iWear.  It’s a different experience.  The iWear are designed to work on any platform, not just the PC, and will also run legacy content.  They are 100 percent HDMI compatible, so any 2D or 3D content just works with them, and they are portable, with a built-in battery. They are fabulous for flying drones or mobile entertainment. PC, consoles, smartphones with hdmi, drones, DVD players, etc., are just plug and play.

Eric Walter is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

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