New Headset Designs Could Make VR More Comfortable

Lighter is better

Key Takeaways

  • Sony’s new PlayStation VR2 headset is lighter and better ventilated than previous models. 
  • Manufacturers are trying to make VR headsets more comfortable. 
  • Apple is among the companies expected to release a VR headset, and it could be a lot slimmer than current competitors.
A child using VR glasses in a ballroom.

Qi Yang / Getty Images

It can be hard to enjoy virtual reality (VR) with the current crop of bulky headsets. 

Sony hopes to make VR gear easier to wear with its newly revealed next-generation PlayStation VR2 headset. The gadget features a new vent design and a weight reduction. It's part of a broad effort to transform VR headsets. 

"The industry goal is to make the headsets smaller, lighter, and sleeker-looking while simultaneously increasing the field of vision and image quality," Emma Mankey Hidem, who runs a virtual reality content production company, said in an email interview with Lifewire.

Virtually Not There

Sony's new headset design shows off an 'orb' look that matches that of the PS VR2 Sense controller to give users a 360-degree feel when using the headset. The design also takes inspiration from the PlayStation 5 range of products.

"Our goal is to create a headset that will not only become an attractive part of your living room decor but will also keep you immersed in your game world, to the point where you almost forget you are using a headset or controller," Sony executive Hideaki Nishino said in the news release.

Current VR headsets are still uncomfortable and disorienting, Brad Quinton, the CEO of Singulos Research, which recently launched an augmented reality platform, said in an email. 

"Most users are not able to relax while they are wearing VR headsets because they are forced to process and manage both a 'blind-folded' version of their physical surroundings and an artificial virtual world," he added. "Until this is solved to the point of user comfort, it will be very difficult for most people to spend significant time in virtual worlds." 

Terence Leclere is an actor who performs in VR and the founder of #metaforyou, a company that provides immersive interactive services. He said that the Oculus Quest headsets used by some actors were so uncomfortable that they used counterweights to help balance the load. 

"The Oculus Quest being a standalone, untethered machine is a brilliant idea, yet the weight of such an instrument on your head still weighs a lot until you get used to it," he said in an email. 

The Future Is Lighter

Apple is among the companies expected to release a VR headset, and it could be a lot slimmer than current competitors. The upcoming Apple headset, which mixes virtual and augmented reality, could use a hybrid ultra-short focal length lens to keep its weight under 150 grams, according to a note by research analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Kuo said the lenses would be made of plastic and that the headset would feature Micro-OLED displays. The Apple headset will have a sophisticated eye-tracking system that can detect where the user is looking, if they are blinking, and include iris recognition that will automatically identify users.

An adult using a VR headset in a work environment while interacting with a virtual dashboard.

Westend61 / Getty Images

Upcoming VR headsets will become lighter, more durable, and have increased battery life, Sam Bel Hyatt, the CEO of the VR firm Vnntr Cybernetics predicted in an email interview. New designs may also improve accessibility, allowing people with impaired vision or hearing to experience things like spatial sound or vibration-based experiences. "Ideally making the Metaverse comfortable for everyone," Hyatt added. 

Currently, users see VR content with limited peripheral vision. But Hidem said future headsets would fill your entire field of vision and have even better processors for the complex graphics and software that make up VR experiences, particularly large-scale games.

Hidem also predicted that AR and VR headsets would merge. "In this case, users would have a sleek pair of glasses that 'blackout,' so to speak, on the outside for VR and allow you to see the world around you for AR. They will come with built-in and accurate hand tracking so that you don't need bulky controllers," Hidem added. 

Ultimately the emergence of pervasive 5G fast wireless networks is required before VR headsets can become lighter and more comfortable, Amir Bozorgzadeh, the CEO of VR company Virtuleap, said in an email interview.  

"Only 5G can permit for much of the current CPU and GPU burden to pass from the devices directly and onto edge servers, allowing for progressively smaller designs," he added. 

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