The era of consumer VR is dawning: Oculus Rift is here with HTC Vive and Playstation VR hot on its heels. Though many of us are just getting used to the idea of these strange looking headsets being a part of our everyday lives for a long time to come, the world of tech never stands still. Even though some people will be putting on one of these headsets for the first time in the near future, there are others out there already imagining what the next generation could look like and be capable of, because god willing they won’t always look the way they do now.
Artefact, a technology product design and development company, are one such group of people and they’ve come up with some interesting VR concept designs in a project called “VR 2020: a more inclusive vision for virtual reality.” The project has two headset concepts called Light and Shadow and they’ve been designed to “explore how immersion and inclusion might be harmonized in VR hardware experiences for the gaming enthusiast and for the mainstream consumer.”
The use of the tech involved in the concept designs is somewhat ambitious for a 2020 headset considering it’s taken so long to get the headsets to where they are today, involving wireless headsets and accessories, back-mounted computers, and expression reading fabrics. It gives headset developers a lot to aim for. Then again, now that we’ve got the ball rolling with the technology, features like this could be much closer than we’re giving them credit for.
Artefact have designed Shadow, a headset with a hoodie attached in order to create a genuinely private experience and improve immersion. The headset’s computer and battery are built into the hoodie rather than the display to distribute the weight and untether the user from cables. The hood also contains smart fabrics or an eye-tracking system which will be able to read the user’s expressions and translate them onto their on-screen avatar as well as neuromuscular feedback sleeves for tactile interaction with virtual objects.
Shadow is intended to be the headset of choice for gamers “who desire the most immersive virtual reality experience and interact with others mainly in the virtual space.” It allows them to be more social in an in-game world by untethering them as much as possible from their real-life space and creating an experience that immerses the sense of touch as well as sight and sound. We love this concept for all of these reasons, plus the fact that it looks slightly inspired by Assassin’s Creed.
Taking a different approach, the Light concept design is intended to offer a VR experience that keeps the user more connected to the room they’re actually playing in.
“We imagined Light as a VR headset for families or groups of friends who want to dabble in virtual reality but above all want to experience it together.”
Like Shadow, Light is a wireless headset, but to keep the user connected to their environment, the Light concept uses features like a front-facing camera for depth perception, an external screen so others can see what’s happening, and a share mode which allows the headset to wirelessly connect to other devices like smartphones and tablets so that others can share the experience. Sound is also transmitted through an adjustable bone conduction audio system so that sounds from the environment can still be heard, keeping the wearer connected.
Though these are just concept designs, they’re a good sign that virtual reality technology is making an impact and garnering enough interest that we can start thinking about the many possibilities for its future and how its design could be altered to suit the needs of different kinds of users. There’s so much to be excited about!
Images © Artefact