Those of us wrapped up in the dizzying (sometimes literally) world of virtual reality have been so focussed on following the progress of how the hard, pure technical problems are being solved by those smart eggs at Oculus VR, that we may lose sight of the fact that the Oculus Rift needs to be a real, physical thing—probably kinda soon too.
More than most consumer electronics devices we own, good industrial design for virtual reality devices and in particular VR headsets is of critical importance. The Oculus Rift DK1 and DK2 are examples of function over form, people ordering these products are already enthusiasts or developers (or both), they’ll put up with the way the unit looks just as long as it performs. Oculus’ first consumer product will have a much more difficult time with its target demographic—everyone everywhere. Oculus are clearly acutely aware of this and have just announced their acquisition of top design studio Carbon Design Group.
You may not know who they are, but you sure as hell know their designs. In the gaming sphere alone, the firm is responsible for the classic Xbox 360 controller, which won over so many converts to Microsoft’s fold back in 2005. Microsoft’s Kinect, another iconic form which became the fastest selling consumer electronics device ever.
Oculus claim the team have already been collaborating on “multiple unannounced projects” for nearly a year. Which of course throws a hunk of meat to the speculation hounds. It’s fairly certain Carbon’s first and primary brief will be the long awaited Oculus Rift CV1 (consumer version of the Rift), but what else have they already been working on for all that time? Let’s face it, almost certainly peripherals. And, frankly, given the Carbon Design Group’s pedigree in this area, they seem like an incredible choice.
Also, yet another tantalising view on Oculus’ latest prototypes comes from Carbon’s Creative Director, Peter Bristol:
A few seconds with the latest Oculus prototypes and you know that virtual reality is for real this time. From a design and engineering perspective, building the products that finally deliver consumer virtual reality is one of the most interesting and challenging problem sets ever.
This is an entirely open product category. With consumer VR at its inception, the physical architectures are still unknown — We’re on the cutting edge of defining how virtual reality looks, feels, and functions.
We’re incredibly excited to be part of the team and we’re looking forward to helping design the future
Oculus expect the deal to be ‘done’ by this summer; the cost of the acquisition has not been announced.