Aug 19, 2015 | By Simon

Back when Google introduced their Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer at the Google I/O 2014 developers conference for Android devices, the thought of using a fold-out cardboard mount for a mobile phone to experience virtual reality was groundbreaking in a sea of much more expensive VR technologies.  Among other reasons, it proved that virtual reality technology doesn’t necessarily need to rely on expensive devices in order to be enjoyed.  

Yet - just like in so many other applications - cardboard as a material choice is not without its own limitations.  While it may be cheap and readily available, it’s not necessarily desirable for long-term use and is far from being ergonomic or comfortable.     

Inspired by the ease of creating a smartphone mount with cardboard - but with the desire to wear something much more comfortable - a group of designers and engineers from Paralo in Brooklyn, NY have developed a new type of virtual reality headset that’s designed to make the VR experience a much more fun and accessible experience for everybody.  

Using the same principles that make Google Cardboard work so well - the Paralo team have redesigned the headset to be made out of a high-performance silicone rubber so that it is durable, drop-proof, and water-proof.  Additionally, the natural properties of silicone rubber make it much more comfortable when held against skin for long durations of time.  

“We have come a long way in testing out the best design for a virtual reality device,” said the designers.  

“We already have several working prototypes but we want to further raise the bar for our product. In doing so, we intend to share a well-produced consumer ready version with as many people as possible.”

In order to develop their design - which will fit at least 30 different models of smartphones - the team used 3D printing to create a number of prototypes.  

“Our design allows more than 30 types of smartphones to slide into the right placement. Ideally, we would like to accommodate all phones. We are working our hardest to ensure the best experience for all phones in the market.“

For those who might be wondering, the project is not related to the XG Virtual Reality Headset, a similar device from I AM Cardboard that raised $86,248 from 1,229 backers on Kickstarter earlier this year and is currently in production.  Similar to the PLAY, Hong Kong-based I AM Cardboard heavily relied on 3D printing to develop their final headset design.  

Although 3D printing was a phenomenal aide in developing the industrial design for each of the headsets, both the XG Virtual Reality Headset and the PLAY are set to go through more formal traditional manufacturing processes - primarily injection molding - in order to fulfill all of the necessary orders.   

“We are striving to produce a high quality product which requires the correct tooling and expertise to complete,” explains the Paralo team.   

“There are possible risks including delays during the creation of molds for this product. However we are working closely with tooling and manufacturing partners with the right experience and timely results. This means having contracted tooling and manufacturing partners who have years of experience delivering on products with a tight schedule.”

Although the XG Virtual Reality Headset has already been funded and backers are currently awaiting shipments to be delivered in the next couple of weeks, those interested in the PLAY can purchase a unit for as little as $30 - however they won’t be shipped until May of next year, assuming that the manufacturing and fulfilment is completed without a hitch.  

For those with a little bit of know-how and the right equipment, it might be easier to take a 3D scan of your face and create your own custom headset design.  

Regardless, it’s always nice to see how hardware developers are able to take something as simple and powerful as Google Cardboard and create something new out of it using the capabilities that 3D printing and crowdfunding can offer.     


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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