New technology, no matter now revolutionary, can be awkward – even clunky. It takes time to iron out the kinks and find the right balance between necessary engineering and appealing design.
That’s where we are with VR and AR headsets.
Right now, clunky is a pretty accurate description. They’re big, heavy, ugly, uncomfortable things that, in some cases, literally tether you to your computer. From a design point of view, most of them are simply garish boxes strapped around your head. When used with smartphones, some headsets are actual boxes – cut and fold cardboard.
But KULR Technology, a small tech firm in California run by some honest-to-God rocket scientists, is about to change everything we think we know about how headsets look, feel and function.
According to them, sexy, sleek, better preforming and truly mobile VR and AR headsets are in our future. And there’s one key reason we don’t have them already. “Heat – it’s all about the heat,” KULR CEO Michael Mo told VR Observer. “VR headsets generate vast amounts of heat. If you’ve ever worn one for more than 10 minutes, you know it.”
To manage the heat, today’s headsets have to include things like rigid metal panels for spreading out the heat of the processors and components. Those plates don’t bend, they’re heavy and you can’t design around them. So our headsets are heavy, clunky, hot face boxes.
But what if headset designers didn’t have to use those metal plates to draw in and spread out the heat? What if, instead, designers could use a smooth, flexible, velvet-like material that was both lighter and better at reducing heat?
Well, that could change everything. And it’s not hypothetical. KULR has such a material – a cooling, flexible, light weight, carbon fiber composite that, based on early testing, may be the key to next generation headsets. With it, Mo says, “VR headset design will be a whole new ballgame.”
With carbon fiber thermal management technology, future VR headsets will not just be cooler and lighter and better looking – they will actually perform better too. That’s because, unlike the metal cooling platforms used today, carbon fibers don’t conduct electric currents which can interfere with wireless Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals – a key to making headsets truly mobile.
Lighter headsets with better cooling technology can also open doors for headset advances such as eye tracking lenses that can adjust VR environments based on where you’re looking instead of physically tuning your head – like looking out of the corner of your eye.
But those eye movement cameras, and the processors that run them, kick up heat too. And add weight. So reducing overall headset weight and developing better cooling technology, like may be possible with KULR fiber, is essential to getting those features in front of consumers.
And it won’t hurt a bit to have headsets look better too. Let’s be honest, some of them look ridiculous. Maybe carbon fiber cooling can lead us to fashion-forward VR – like, introducing the Oculus Daring, designed by Vera Wang. Or perhaps we’ll get a whole line of VR headsets designed for first-person combat gaming that look and feel like combat goggles.
Who knows? But we may not have to wait too long to find out.
Mo, KULR CEO, says the carbon fiber future of VR and AR isn’t far off. KULR is already testing their breakthrough tech with some companies and, given the competitive nature and speed of the market, headset 2.0 may be here very soon. “I give it a year – maybe 18 months – before we start seeing headsets that look and work like nothing we’ve seen yet,” he said.