The Royole Moon Viewer headset was built to work like a standalone VR cinema. A place where you can watch movies, listen to music, and view things in both 2D and 3D. You can use it to view MP4 videos, listen to music, and even browse the internet. Unfortunately, while it has a design that looks good, this doesn't exactly translate well into a user experience.
What it looks look
The Royole Moon viewer has a very slick design. The model I was using was all white, with black padding and grey accents, and it was gorgeous to look at. Lots of curved lines made it look quite nice, and it folded into a compact shape that made it easy to transport. The headphones are attached to the headset, with an adjustable bar for the top of your head.
To adjust the focal depth and focus of the lenses, there are two dials at the bottom of the headset. By turning the dials you get to adjust the focus. To tweak the focal distance, you need to push the dial in and then shift it to the left or right. The design also has a fairly large curved piece where the lenses live and it's where most of the weight of the headset sits.
While having a super adjustable piece made transport easy, it also didn't like to stay in place.
While having a super adjustable piece made transport easy, it also didn't like to stay in place, especially when I was wearing my glasses. Everything about the headset screams being made to be particularly adjustable. You can move around where the headset sits, how close the lenses are, and of course the focal depth of the lenses. While the headset was certainly designed to be adjustable, the problem occurs when you can't lock it into place when you are ready to jump into VR.
Wearing the headset
When it came to putting on the headset, my problems started within moments. Trying to adjust the headset so that it properly sat on my face and stayed there was extremely difficult, and I found myself holding the headset in place with one hand, which really wasn't an ideal fit. The big problem was that there was no point where I could comfortably wear the headset with my glasses on; they were being constantly jammed into the bridge of my nose. The weight of the headset all being at the front also made it extremely difficult to balance properly and had a tendency to drift down my nose even when laying back.
After speaking to a member of the Royole team, it became clear that this was due to bad directions as to how to wear the headset. This is something that they're hoping to update in future shipping. The bar should sit about three-quarters of the way back from your face, and when adjusted that way most of the weight was off my face. While the amount of weight on my nose and face was definitely an improvement there were still a few issues with pressing into my nose.
There were issues with blur, and as the headset would drift down my face I was unable to clearly see the screen.
On top of that, I had some problems getting the screen properly focused. Initially, I could only see about three-quarters of the screen inside the headset. Since it shows up like you are looking at a TV (and not VR) this was a bit problematic. It took adjusting the focus knobs and then also adjusting the focal IPD to make things better. Even then, I had some issues trying to see things properly in the menus. There were issues with blur, and as the headset would drift down my face I was unable to clearly see the screen.
A significant part of these issues came from the fact that I usually wear glasses in my everyday life. However, there is no space for my glasses while wearing the headset. While I could adjust the focal points, my astigmatism was never able to be accounted for properly. Once I'd opened a few of the preloaded videos, things looked pretty good, but still not ideal. No matter how long I fiddled with the dials that adjusted focal points, I couldn't get an image that was always clear and easy to see.
Whether my issues with seeing clearly were because of the headset or because I wasn't able to see without my glasses is a tricky question to answer. But it means that at least for folks who wear glasses and have astigmatism — which makes everything blurry whether it's close or far away — may not be able to take advantage of what the headset has to offer.
Using the headset
While the UI of the headset was easy to use, I definitely had some issues. When you start up the headset it asks you what language you want to use, and not how to interact with the headset, I initially wound up using it in Italian. Thankfully the menu was easy to figure out even in another language and after a few minutes of poking through I managed to get everything to switch over to English.
Without the quick-start guide from inside the box, I'd have been pretty lost.
In order to navigate through the menus, I needed to use a touchpad located on the outside of the headphones. While the placement of the touchpad was decent, it was hard to tell at times whether I was hitting it wrong, or whether it just wasn't taking my commands. Moving and interacting with the UI was all about swiping and tapping, and without the quick start guide from inside the box, I'd have been pretty lost. This was made more difficult because there is no difference in the feel of the touchpad versus the rest of the headset.
While there are a number of preloaded videos and songs on the headset, you also have the ability to connect to Wi-Fi and there is actually a built-in browser. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have voice commands, so you'll be forced to use the touchpad on the side of the headset. While that doesn't make it unusable, it is quite frustrating, especially if you are trying to navigate somewhere with a longer URL.
Watching regular movies or television shows on the Royole Viewer was enjoyable, and if you can properly adjust the focal lengths to see clearly, it works awesome as a personal theater. This may explain what certain parts of the UI seem less polished than others. The emphasis is on letting you get to your file of choice and get to watching your show. The sound was great, and once I'd managed to get the headset adjusted properly, I could see why it would be great for certain users.
The Royole Moon Viewer looks gorgeous from the outside, but between issues getting it focused, I wasn't able to take full advantage of the personal theater experience. While it was passably comfortable after I'd readjusted it, I was always aware of the weight on my nose, and being unable to wear my glasses was really not ideal. It's really unfortunate because I wanted that personal theater experience. Especially considering how nice the headset looked. While I had issues focusing the lenses, the visuals the Moon Viewer was producing were fantastic. Likewise, the inclusion of Wi-Fi internet browser was nice, but having to type with a touchpad is tedious at best.
That makes the Royole a bit of a mixed bag, and it definitely is going to be a hard sell most people. With such a hefty price tag (starting at about $800), it's definitely a decision that will need some thought and you'll probably be better served by picking up a Gear VR, or Daydream View. The one exception to this is for those of you who have extensive home libraries of movies, productions, videos, or television shows. If you love cinema, then the experience it delivers is worth considering.
Updated November 22, 2017: This post was updated after trying out the new immersion mask, and speaking with the makers of the Royole Moon Viewer.
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