Hands-on with Vufine+ – A Wearable Display Neither AR nor VR

When I was a kid, you had TV screens and computer monitors. The idea of them ever merging seemed like science fiction, much less the wide array of head-mounted displays hitting the market these days. Today, Vufine launches the Vufine+ a wearable HMD that’s in a class all its own (though time will tell how useful that is).

I was able to get my hands on a demo unit of Vufine+ last week and spent some time getting acquainted with the technology as the team prepared to launch. Here’s what I found.

HDMI Cable Required

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While it may look like Google Glass, Vufine+ is something entirely different. Instead of using a camera to simulate AR, Vufine+ simply puts a miniature screen in your field of vision that looks like a TV’s picture-in-picture feature. It’s neither augmented nor virtual reality, but still a pretty cool accessory to have.

The virtual screen has a 960 x 540 resolution, and is bright enough to be noticed in your peripheral. You’ll need to focus on it to really see it, however, and that blocks out your attention to the rest of the world.

It connects to your Android device using an HDMI cable, which somewhat limits its compatibility. It will only work on Android models that support HDMI. Unfortunately this doesn’t include the Samsung Galaxy S7 (which I own) as HDMI support was discontinued as of the S6. That meant I had to downgrade to an older Galaxy S5 to use it.

Still, Vufine provided me with a Samsung MHL HDMI converter, so setup was a breeze. Even without the adapter, I could connect to my desktop and laptop, but when already tethered to a large screen, there was no need for the display.

Although there are no adjustable settings except for a few ratio adjustments, it was still easy to see nearly all displays I hooked Vufine up to. I also bought an adapter to try it on the Moto Droid Z I got in for review from Motorola. It didn’t work, though.

The Glasses and Comfort

Vufine+ comes with a pair of glasses as well as a magnetic docking station that can be attached to your own pair. I attached them to my plastic frames with no problems, and my roommate was able to use them on hers as well.

The piece in front of your eye is adjustable to center directly over your eye. It take a second to get the hang of it, but once you do, you can optimize the view by short-pressing the power button on the back.

Vufine+ has both a micro-HDMI and micr0-USB outlet for connecting to other devices and charging, respectively.

If you don’t want to wear glasses, there is an optional headband accessory to wear around your head instead. Even with glasses, this accessory worked well.

Vufine in the Wild

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Walking around outside wearing Vufine+ was a surreal experience because I likely looked to everyone like I was trying out some high-end AR technology, but it’s affordable for the average consumer, unlike other AR options that often top $1000.  I decided to dust off Pokemon Go and see how it worked.

It’s not hard to read using Vufine, but typing took a little bit of practice. All the hand-eye coordination I picked up from years of gaming eventually paid off, and I could soon coordinate what I was doing on screen with what was happening on this secondary screen (a skill that would come in handy using Moto Z’s projector).

Then I opened the Vidius HD app to see what it looked like actually flying a drone using this HMD instead of a VR headset. It was somewhat impressive, although difficult to distinguish the video of real life from real life itself. You’re able to still use the phone as a controller, though you have to know how to navigate the app.

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I found that when pairing Vufine with a bluetooth headset and mic, I could navigate my phone relatively well using the limited voice commands available. It would be nice if Vufine+ were wireless as well. Hopefully that’s in the works for the next generation.

Aside from map-based apps and drone FPV, there’s not much else I could find for this technology. Still Vufine+ is an interesting piece of tech that may appeal to those looking for a simple way to keep an eye on their phone.

Vufine+ launched on Kickstarter today for $179 in a variety of colors, while the retail price will be $199 soon. So if you want them, get them now.

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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