The headset captures images from every direction around the user, then transforms them into something the human vision system can comprehend.
The system called FlyVIZ was designed by Jerome Ardouin and colleagues at the Grande Ecole d'Ingenieurs Paris-Laval in France, the New Scientist reported.
The headset is at prototype stage: at 1.6 kilogrammes, it's a bit heavy to walk around with, and remains connected to a laptop for image-processing while it runs.
It uses a video camera, mounted atop a helmet, along with specially shaped mirrors to capture the environment on all sides of the user, then displays it in real time on a modified 3D Viewer headset.
The system takes about 15 minutes to get used to, its creators claim in a paper they presented at the Virtual Reality Software and Technology conference in Toronto, Canada.
Once acclimatised, the user is able to move around and interact fluidly with their environment.
In a series of trials, users grabbed sticks that would have been outside their normal field of view, dodged balls thrown from behind them, and even drove a car.
Despite the strange new perspective on the world, the device does not cause any nausea, motion sickness or visual fatigue, the team claimed.
Even though FlyVIZ acquires and displays images in 2D, users still had serviceable depth perception, which the researchers attribute to wearers intuitively tracking object motion and parallax in the image to compensate for a lack of normal binocular vision.