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Apple’s Vision Pro mixed reality headset may have the best display ever crammed into a wearable headset, but it costs $3,499 and gets about 2 hours of battery life. The Sol Reader is something different. Very different.

It’s a wearable device that has two 1.3 inch E Ink displays to put 256 x 256 pixels of black and white content in front of each eye. Sol Reader won’t immerse you in virtual or augmented reality. It’s designed to immerse you in an eBook for a distraction-free reading experience. And that’s all it does. But it does it for a long time: the maker of the Sol Reader is promising up to 25 hours of battery life.

First announced earlier this year, Sol Reader is now up for pre-order for $350.

Whether it’s worth the money is certainly up for debate.

First there’s the question of whether the concept makes any sense at all – you could easily buy a couple of Kindle, Kobo, or Nook eReaders for that price, and they’d have higher-resolution displays meant to be positioned further from your eyes, most likely giving you a better viewing experience (although less distraction-free).

Second, there’s the actual product. It’s basically a set of heavy glasses that block out all other light, put two tiny E Ink displays in front of your eyes, and shine a side-light on them so they can be viewed. The headset comes with a wireless remote control that lets you turn pages and navigate the user interface. Some folks seem sold on the concept, but it seems like a pretty niche device.

And then there are the specs… which are kind of a big question mark at the moment. On the one hand, there is a Technical Specs page on the Sol Reader website. But I have to wonder if some of the details are typos.

It certainly doesn’t take a super-speedy processor or large amounts of memory or storage to power an eReader, even one that’s strapped to your face. But the website lists a 240 MHz dual-core processor, 8MB of RAM, and 64MB of storage, which seem shockingly low.

By comparison, Amazon’s cheapest Kindle eReader has 16GB of storage (or roughly 250 times more than 64MB).

On the bright side, this thing is pretty lightweight. The headset measures 183 x 158 x 56mm and weighs just 104 grams and features two batteries with a total capacity of 470 mAh. The remote control is 66 x 46 x 23mm and weighs 39 grams and uses a replaceable CR2450 coin cell battery.

Sol Reader is also designed to pair with a mobile app for iOS or Android devices that allows you to manage settings and send DRM-free eBooks, news articles, or other content to the wearable eReader. With DRM-free content explicitly mentioned, I have to wonder if there’s any way at all to read content purchased from eBook stores that use DRM. While it is possible to strip DRM from eBooks you’ve purchased, it may be illegal to do that in some jurisdictions.

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  1. Ebook reader device with only 256×256 resolution? That is a bit more than ZX Spectrum display resokution (256×192) but totally unacceptable for reading books today. No sense at all.

  2. All it needs is an Inkplate 5 (see next post) attached to the front to show your E-Ink eyeballs to the outside world.

    1. that would be sweeet, it also needs one of those big noses with a fake mustache to fit over the wearer’s nose to protect against Covid-19

  3. The example images they show on the website look like a terrible visual experience. The extremely low resolution seems to result in very poor text clarity. It looks like an Apple II computer screen.

    I’d rather read an entire book through a Microfiche than look at that low-res text.

    I also share the concern about the specs. While it doesn’t take a powerful processor to display plain text on a simple e-ink panel (a 16mhz Atmega AVR chip could pull that off), I have to assume the SOC will need to generate a stereoscopic image, and I would assume that would require some image processing capability. Unless they have some kind of custom ASIC designed to perform that task, I doubt a 240hz CPU could pull this off. Who knows, maybe they are using some kind of chip with a fixed function image processor built in.

    Somehow, I feel like there’s a far more interesting purpose for these glasses than using them as an E-reader. They’d likely sell more of them if they simply made them show a Matrix code screensaver. Or if they made it run Zork.

      1. Zork ans similar old text based adventure games WOTHOUT a KEUBOARD? Are you crazy?

        If they were “select option from a list” it could be ok, but no for type in your free text input.

  4. I’m thinking about getting the XReal or Viture glasses. Right now, the only use case I want to use for these is the “large monitor on your face” one and in a much more convenient glasses form factor (not goggles nor straps).

    Of course, focusing solely on 1 use case, I except them to be much much cheaper than headsets.