The Inside Story of How Oculus Cracked the Impossible Design of VR

After nearly four years of work, Oculus is about to share its long-gestating dream with the world.

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A great story on the significant challenges of designing a viable and workable product for the marketplace – lots of challenges to overcome and it is an iterative process.  The DK2, (Developer Kit 2) not only added new capabilities—most significantly, the ability to have its position tracked in space and a display technology that kept images clear even when users moved their heads quickly—but, with its rounded corners and smaller, less forbidding eyebox, it was immediately friendlier than its predecessor. “We don’t want the robot mask on your face,” says Nirav Patel, an Oculus engineer who helped design the motion-sensing brain of the Rift. “As we went from DK1 to DK2, we had in mind that we needed to overcorrect for that.”  But the DK2 was by no means perfect. Its ski-goggle-style head strap was soft, but to keep the front-heavy headset stable it had to be adjusted so tightly that long-term comfort was a concern. And cramming in all the capabilities Oculus wanted the consumer Rift to have meant bundling three more cables together, resulting in what Patel calls a “preposterous umbilical cord.” While DK2 did what it needed to do—provide developers a platform on which they could start building games and experiences—it wasn’t a product. Not by a long shot.  Not only did the lack of side anchors make the headset shift from side to side, but you felt like Bane during a visit to the optometrist. So Bristol and Patel and their teams made design prototypes. A lot of them. (At one point, while showing me a group of 10 or so prototypes, Bristol allowed that the assortment represents “probably a fiftieth” of their exploration.) And while all those prototypes solved problems, they invariably created others. Take the one that replaced straps with hard plastic wings that gripped the sides of your head. Upside: You could slide it on from the front. Downside: Not only did the lack of side anchors make the headset shift from side to side, but you felt like Bane during a visit to the optometrist.  “You’re always adding into the equation what people are actually going to be comfortable wearing and what looks appropriate,”   As the prototypes came and went, the team realized that ergonomics for a VR headset are about more than just stability. You could custom-fit a 3-D-printed headset, but that was for naught if it didn’t lead to a good time in VR. “We’d build stuff,” Patel says, “and we couldn’t actually prove out if it was ergonomically good until we actually went into VR. You have to see it in-experience to know if it solves the problems that you need it to.”  Slowly, the many tributaries they’d pursued dried up, returning them to a single course of design elements. The side straps became spring-loaded cantilevers, which would let you adjust the fit as you liked but still take the headset off (and put it back on) like a baseball cap, with no further readjustments. The integrated on-ear headphones swivel forward and back to fit onto anyone’s ears—then swing up and out of the way with a soft, satisfying click. “The right answer has to be exposed to the consumer,” Bristol says. “You’re not hiding it in plastic or decoration—there’s a raw honesty of technology and solutions.” – 

See on Scoop.itInternet of Things – Technology focus

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