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3D Printed Virtual Reality Headset Adds Appealing Form to High-Tech Function

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headset mainWhen Shapeways designer Masaharu Ono began conceiving of his elaborate, 3D printed virtual reality (VR) headset, chances are that he didn’t find much inspiration on the web. An image search of “VR headset” reveals some pretty definitively un-sexy set-ups that have a great deal more to do with function (like the incredible and affordable Samsung Gear VR headset) than form.

The Samsung Gear VR is powered by Oculus. Form wise, not bad. Function? Nothing short of amazing!

The Samsung Gear VR is powered by Oculus. Form wise, not bad. Function? Nothing short of amazing!

Possibly reeling from a lack of inspiration and admiration, Ono sat down with a sketch pad–first real, then digital–and evidently determined to inject some glamour into VR viewing. According to a brief Shapeways blog calling attention to Ono’s way-out-there design, the real-world designer found his inspiration not in the tech world, but in nature.

There’s very little about the finished piece that is suggestive of nature aside from the curvilinearity of the design, which is perhaps the first and most overt contrast between Ono’s VR goggles and those we’ve seen on the web. Printed in white nylon plastic with a matte finish, the headset must be relatively lightweight despite its volume, which could potentially be awkward if it weren’t so, well, glamorously Giger-esque. It’s as though one of Giger’s gorgeous alien heads met a stereoscope and, perhaps, a basket weaver.

design

Ono’s sketches reveal his aspirations for an end result that might have retained the more organic qualities of his vision. There’s something of a disconnect between the fascinating cup-like nodes and the reptilian-looking, tentacle-like feature of the viewing portion of the headset on the sketched version and the more standardized patterning of the 3D printed end result. Indeed, the sketches, are beautiful in and of themselves and perhaps will be fully realized via 3D printing at some future date.

Ono uses Rhinoceros and Grasshopper in his design process and, as far as we can ascertain from his Shapeways site, the VR headset is by far the largest object he has designed and 3D printed. His offerings in the Shapeways store are primarily jewelry pieces, all of which are quite reasonably priced and visually striking.

Just in case you were eager to order your own VR headset, which Ono calls “Bloom,” note that he is asking $10,000 for the piece. Also note that, despite its designation as a VR headset, the piece is a model, suggesting it might be taken up as, if not the basis for a more aesthetically appealing VR headset, a kind of post-manufacturing adornment something like an elaborate smartphone case (which is technically what it is).

tako model

After all, what’s the point in looking like you’ve strapped a glorified stereoscope to your head when stepping into the high-tech world of VR when you can look as though you’ve actually dressed for the occasion?

If the $10,000 price tag is beyond your means, check out the less expensive “TakotsuboX” VR viewer, also for a smartphone. Also 3D printed in white nylon, this headset has more in common with the VR headsets I found on my image search. It is actually quite effectively realized. It’s also $500, which might be far more within the price range of most shoppers.

Price tags aside, Ono’s VR headset designs make one thing clear: With 3D printing, we have the tools we need and thus the capacity to not only invent, innovate, and iterate, but to beautify. Leaving the technology and mechanics to the experts, Ono moved forward to aesthetics, to form, which is hardly separate from function in a competitive consumer market.

Let us know if a headset design from Ono’s Shapeways store might be just the right thing for your next virtual reality experience in the 3D Printed VR Headset forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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