The New Virtual Reality: Inside the Design of Oculus Rift
Editor's Note: This article is part of a series that examines the lessons behind disruptive products through the lens of design.
Facebook's latest conquest, the Oculus Rift, got top billing at this year's Comic-Con, as event goers were able to use the headset to hunt virtually for X-men mutants. The simulation was a promotional tie-in for the October 14 release of X-Men: Days of Future Past on Blu-ray disc, but make no mistake: The Oculus Rift is no sideshow.
The product is expected to make a big splash with consumers thanks to its promise to immerse users inside new virtual worlds--but also for its innovative design. After all, design isn't just the look and feel of a product, it's about how the consumer will interact with it.
One of the features that sets Oculus Rift apart from other virtual reality headsets is its lightweight display screen and overall emphasis on comfort that allows for long play sessions. Here are three other design elements that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and his team of designers have been touting as key to the Rift's disruptive potential:
Outpace the competition.
Unlike the majority of consumer head-mounted displays that have a diagonal field of view of between 30 degrees and 40 degrees, the Oculus Rift features a 110-degree field of view that gives users the impression they are inside a different world, rather than simply looking at a screen.
Anticipate customers' needs and meet them.
When users move the their heads, rather than having to wait for the headset sensors to catch up and orient the screen to a new position, the Oculus Rift has what's called "ultra-low latency" that tracks movements in real time to create a natural, fluid experience.
Allow for experimentation.
The Oculus Rift's "immersive" rendering creates a view with depth, scale and what's known as "parallax." That's a term of art used to describe the difference in position of an object viewed from two different lines of sight.
One of the more exciting aspects of the Oculus Rift is the potential for applications outside of 3D gaming. YouVisit, a company that specializes in producing campus video tours of California universities, recently adapted its videos so that they can be viewed through the Rift goggles. YouVisit also produces virtual tours of companies, factories and health-care institutions, all of which could eventually use Oculus Rift.
Another example is Austin, Texas-based software company Chaotic Moon, which has plans to use Oculus Rift to allow consumers to view and test-drive cars.
While 3D gamers are the targeted early adopters of Oculus Rift, the product's design features are likely to appeal to a wide variety of industries and applications.
Pre-orders for the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2, aimed at developers rather than consumers, began shipping earlier this month. Oculus has yet to disclose release a date for a consumer version of the headset.