For the past year, the design firm Nonobject has been working on prototypes for the perfect VR controller and headset. They’ve already made a name for themselves with their Ultimate Ears Boom Speakers, which they call “the musical instrument of the 21st century.” It’s a Bluetooth speaker made for the wear and tear of everyday life and not an iPhone-like design that you’re afraid to drop.
We think that hand tracking gloves or similar devices are the ultimate solution to using your hands in Virtual Reality. But the tech isn’t fully there yet, and Nonobject’s perfect VR controller works with where the technology is now.
It looks like a standard controller but it senses when you open and close your hands. The way Nonobject looks at it is – can it pass the frisbee text?
And it would be a lot more comfortable than what Vive, Rift, and Microsoft offer now.
Fast Company describes the prototype,
It’s a motion controller, fitted with hidden dots that are tracked through an infrared sensor that sits on a nearby desk or wall. Nonobject’s complex geometry calculations ensure that the infrared sensors can always “see” the controllers as they move through space. But despite this focus on ergonomics, the controller is still a piece compelling industrial design with the polish of a mature commercial product, rather than the demo-level design that rules the industry today.
Nonobject’s big insight, however, was to add elastic suspension to the part of the controller that circles around the top of your hand. Think of it like a web of brass knuckles. Tightened by twisting a knob at the bottom of the controller, they distribute the weight of the Air Hand, effectively helping it feel weightless–plus, they make it possible to open your hand to gesture. That means you can go so far as to wind up and throw a baseball pitch in VR and not toss your controller across the room while doing so.
Here are the features of what might be the perfect VR controller:
Designs for the perfect VR controller and headset
Nonobject has also created new design prototypes for VR headsets, looking at the pain points (there’s many) of our current HMDs. Some prototypes are like baseball caps, which are easy to slip on and off (you can imagine the branding opportunities here). Others ingeniously fit around your head by separating in the back or in the front between the two lenses.
Here’s how Nonobject describes their approach.
The VR experiences of today still has a long way to go to encourage mainstream adoption. Beyond technical constraints, there is a dearth of content that goes beyond meaningless experiences. But even if the technical constraints and lack of content were resolved tomorrow, there would still be issues with the user experience. And that is our focus in Project Air. We set out to create the most comfortable VR experience possible.
These are fascinating prototypes revealing the failures in the design of our current VR hardware. With the dream of doing Virtual Reality through a pair of Warby Parker glasses a long way off, these prototypes could help spur VR adoption rates.
In the end, it really is about user-experience, all the more so when the technology itself is no longer an information tool but the space for human experience. Nonobject is way ahead of the curve in doing these projects on their own – it’s a design approach that the current VR OEMs need to embrace.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.