At first glance Cornfield Electronics’ Trip Glasses look like a throwback to the X-Ray specs offered in the back pages of comic books. Despite cartoons showcasing the lascivious properties of the specs, they didn’t actually do anything, whereas Trip Glasses purport to bring the user on a crazy head trip. It’s not called a “brain machine” just for kicks! When the glasses are on and activated, dual tones play out of the attached headphones while red lights repeatedly flashes in the lenses of the glasses. These combined stimuli are supposed to cause your brain to see images and colors as well as relax your entire body. But does it really work? More on that in a bit.
In the package are the glasses, headphones, instructions, and white oval stickers. The stickers are for placing over the red flashing lights to reduce the brightness. Even though the user is instructed to use the glasses with closed eyes, the lights are still very bright. For very sensitive eyes, it’s suggested that two or more stickers can be used over each light.
The glasses are made of black hard plastic with a “trippy” design sticker on the front. The instructions mentioned this is removable, but I couldn’t easily take it off without leaving a sticky residue behind. There are small holes in the center of each lens where the red lights will blink. The headphones are about on par with the quality you find included with a generic walkman or what is given to you on an airplane. They rest on the ear rather than over. Luckily, they are not permanently attached and a swap with your own preferred set of cans will make your “trip” much more pleasant.
Using the glasses is pretty simple–put the glasses and headphones on, close your eyes, and press the on button located on the frame of the glasses. This initiates the 14 minute cycle of sound and flashing red lights. A very long 14 minutes. According to the site’s FAQ you could use the device for as long or as short as you’d like and still receive an effect. Unfortunately, there is no off button; the glasses shut off only after the full cycle.
But there actually is a bit of science behind the glasses that I’m going to try to summarize without butchering too poorly. The glasses “work” off of the use of binaural beats, where two tones of slightly different frequencies are played in each ear. The brain processes this as a single mixed “phantom” tone. Binaural beats are thought to have the ability to induce pain relief and relaxation and will supposedly even work at frequencies below the human range of hearing. If the science interests you, there are open source (and free) binaural beat generators available on the Internet that will have the same effect as these glasses.
This was a very difficult product to review. Not really knowing what to expect, I put the glasses and headphones on and after about fifteen seconds of extreme discomfort, I threw them off. For me it felt like I was staring at a strobe light and the audio (for which there is no volume control) sounded like the tone that plays over color bars when a TV station goes off the air. My brain wanted nothing to do with it. Trip Glasses sell for about $40 through ThinkGeek and the manufacturer, which feels a little pricey for what you actually get in hand. As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so for some this may be quite a cool little machine. For me though, it was a migraine-inducing miss.