Two common types of head-mounts for VR headsets dominate the market today: the side & top strap approach, and the halo approach (which rests mostly on the forehead). Despite their abundance, there’s still a long way to go toward improving comfort, ease-of-use, and social acceptability as VR grows. Designers from industrial design firm Nonobject prototyped a range of new designs which could be viable as VR technology becomes smaller and lighter.

Nonobject shared the prototypes with Fast Company Design, which included both headset and input concepts. The company actually built many of the designs to test the fit for real. Even though it is claimed that they can “accommodate the Oculus spec” (presumably the weight and size requirements of the Rift) some of the designs seem like they could only work with lighter components than we have in VR headsets today, and none of the designs appear to account for the weight of the cable which, as I found in my review of the Acer Windows VR Headset, can be an issue for certain types of head-mounts. Alas, it’s a neat look at a potential direction for the future of VR headset design.

Kepi

The first design is called Kepi, and aims to bring both familiarity and comfort to a VR headset. The design essentially fuses a baseball cap and a headset into one. That’s got the benefit of being recognizable and understandable—everyone knows how to put on and fit a baseball hat.

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Image courtesy Nonobject, Fast Company Design

What’s especially interesting about this design is that it uses the surface area of the entire head for both friction (to keep the headset on your head) and weight distribution, rather than relegating it to smaller areas and causing greater pressure from straps or the forehead-heavy halo designs. Like the other designs from Nonobject, unfortunately Kepi lacks integrated audio, which I feel is essential for making VR headsets as hassle-free as possible.

Split

Another approach is the Split, which functions just as the name implies—by splitting the headset down the middle of the visor so it can come on and off with a tug. This would of course present major challenges to the internal component design, but should at least be hypothetically possible as many headsets today are using one display per eye rather than a single panel across both eyes. Fast Company Design suggests a latch might be employed to ensure the magnetic connection doesn’t separate in the midst of more intense VR sessions.

One neat part about the Split design is that it can easily go from being on your head to resting around your neck. With the first generation of VR headsets like the Rift and Vive, if you need to take the headset off to interact with the real world briefly you’re either stuck with it uncomfortably resting on your forehead, in your hands, or you have to set it down completely. Even with newer devices like the Windows VR headsets, the flip-up functionality is a nice step forward, but can still be a little awkward if you’re going to be out of VR for a few minutes but don’t want take the headset completely off. One potential flaw with the Split is that it might be annoying to split and re-attach the headset with controllers in your hands.

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You can see a few other VR headset design prototypes from Nonobject over at Fast Company Design.

Grasp

The design firm also considered an approach for VR controllers, resulting in a device that looks a lot like a combination of Oculus Touch and Valve’s Knuckles controllers, and uses a fabric cinch to keep the controller against the user’s hands so that they can ‘let go’ of the controller during use. The idea is to instill a more natural feeling of not holding anything in your hands while idle, but retaining the feeling of an inanimate object in your hands when you grab something in the virtual world.

Stone

Image courtesy Nonobject, Fast Company Design

One of the most interesting prototype designs is the ‘Stone’ toolset. The duo of devices are envisioned as a foundation for creative VR input, with the stylus for drawing and writing in one hand, and the stone-shaped device for sculpting, scraping, carving, and cutting with the other. I imagine the surface of the stone would also make a great touchpad for finer abstract input, like dialing in brush sizes, scrolling web pages, and adjusting colors using your thumb.

Of course, there’s a whole lot of technology that would need to be figured out to make the Stone devices actually work, but if someone could manage it, the stylus could answer an important need that VR is lacking right now: efficient text input, which is being approached from several angles at present.

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According to Fast Company Design, Nonobject created these designs as a side project and “hope that the industry [will] steal these open-source ideas and move AR and VR forward.”

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  • nipple_pinchy

    Awesome!

  • Walextheone

    Really cool ideas. Creative thinking.
    I kind of cringe when I see non vr people taking on and off the HMDs of today, could literally take two minutes for some.
    Long hair and glasses seems to be some of the hurdles to design around.

  • Muzufuzo

    I imagine, in the near future we will be using VR headsets a bit similar to baseball caps, as they will incorporate some kind of brain computer interface, on top of our heads.

    • RFC_VR

      BMI will be surgically implanted? As casually as having ears pierced at mall.

      From eXistenZ, “your industry standard bioport!”

  • I like them.

    It will get to the point where we have clip on displays that you can attach to sunglasses and specs then just flip them down, which turns them on. Mobile handsets could wirelessly transmit their screens to them as AR or VR.

    • Cooldigital

      That wont work. Light bleed will kill immersion in VR

      • RFC_VR

        see welding goggles above. can use breathable membrane face seal to block light whilst eliminating fogging from heat/moisture build up

  • Joe Black

    I really can’t wait to see what magic leap comes with in the end. They’ve gotten so much investment so easily. They must be working on something amazing. The hints are pretty insane so far. I just hope they have VR as well as AR options. AR alone is great, but the whole idea of VR is just too compelling to let go like that.

    I mention it because if I understand right the tech might make for drastically improved ergonomics in as far as the HMD is concerned.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Be careful of the hype Magic Leap has created…. not saying they don’t have something nice, but right now it’s all effectively vaporware and might well turn out to be a monumental scam in the industry. I hope not, but just releasing doctored videos with sweet nothings run as the soundtrack does not a product make.

      • Joe Black

        Not sure. From what I hear they are daring people to tell the difference between real and AR objects in their sneak previews. That might not be true, but if so… Really amazing.

    • Eddie Barsh

      IMO, VR will be the standard in gaming because it can fully insert and immerse you in a virtual world. I think VR is better for gaming and training for jobs or careers or simulations while I think AR will be the bigger money maker because it can be used on the go and be able to assist ppl 24/7 all day everyday mixing the virtual world w the physical world. I think someday in the future ppl will be wearing Hololens like visors all day everyday that will display a HUD of everybody’s vitals such as blood pressure, heart rate and will also monitor the world around us. For example, w smart phones today we have to look down and use our hands and often times while driving or walking ppl aren’t watching what their doing while a car is approaching that could potentially hit the user, the AR visor may be able to warn us that a car is approaching and we need to move out of the way and BAM, disaster is avoided. I agree w Microsoft and Facebook who insist their mixed reality visors will replace smart phones. they will be able to do EVERYTHING w one pair of visors and you won’t have to look down.everything will be overlaid over your eyes and physical world

      • Joe Black

        You don’t have to convince me :) First time I saw Surge in VR my mind was blown. VR is just simply next level.

  • ongunjack

    I liked so much that design. very creative! http://en.vlanderon.com also create something for VR .

  • Foreign Devil

    I’m most excited about sculpting and drawing tools that have multiple levels of pressure sensitivity. ..the current occulus controls feel the same as doing 3D sculpting with a mouse instead of a tablet. . . well even worse actually.

  • Ted Joseph

    I am definitely not going to put a baseball cap on my head when playing. Will be TOO hot… Hopefully they think this through…

  • What has any of these accomplished? The baseball cap wouldn’t even be able to hold a cellphone on your head, much less anything more substantial. The Split doesn’t balance any weight, has no vertical support, and why would anyone want to have their headset dangle around their neck? A draw string on a Oculus Touch controller is a minor addition suggestion at most. And this “Stone”… gawd.

    What is even more concerning is all of these positive comments about these silly concept models. Where are all of the critical thinkers that used to comment here? I’m hoping they are just too busy making real progress in the VR field to comment. The alternative is that most of the best minds I used to see in the comments have just grown bored with VR.

    I know I’m not using VR much these days. After the glow of new technology wore off I found the headsets too heavy, FOV small, the cords constantly distracting, content light, and locomotion a constant annoyance. VR has issues and these strange designs do nothing to correct any of them.

    • Eddie Barsh

      I see where you’re coming from but the thing is, so many different companies have different ideas on what works for what they’re trying to specifically accomplish w their headset. These are some really neat ideas. Do I think they’re the best solution? No not by a long shot. But they’re really cool and allows different companies to try different concepts to see what works and what don’t work. I happen to think a sunglasses-style vizor w a single panel , instead of 2 seperate lenses per eye, is the best idea because its small, lightweight and takes the same amount of time to put on or take off like any other pair of glasses so you can go from physical to virtual world instantly. The article clearly states that these are open source ideas that they hope ppl will steal to advance Mixed Reality.

  • Eddie Barsh

    Amazing ideas. However I believe the best design is a star trek-like design where users have a visor with a single panel that stretches all the way across the face and gives the users an extremely wide FOV and can easily be taken off and on like any other pair of sunglasses. Its the easiest, smallest, lightest design.

    • Eddie Barsh

      They would also be able to function as AR glasses also.

  • oompah

    VR headsets r too heavy
    u cant use them for more than half hr at a stretch
    How to remove the weight?

  • Interesting concepts… I like how they used creativity to think outside the box. But for instance the first design has a lot of issues: sweat is a big concern, for instance.

  • BRANKO LUKIC

    Hi there, this is branko from the nonobject design studio. Just wanted to correct you in that all the headsets we have designed carry the weight of the Oculus headset as that was our reference for the hardware specs. If you have any questions feel free to get in touch. Cheers,

    • rickswanson

      Why not try a batting helmet attached to the VR head gear

  • Beatrix Von Bilderberg

    VR is overrated.
    Don’t get me wrong.
    It’s cool and fun but it’s overrated.