Gear VR Designers Said Two Things Had to be Addressed

on February 13, 2015 by Abraham Pai
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Virtual reality offers a completely different world of imagination. When Samsung’s designers were conceptualizing the Gear VR, they wanted to create a device that would serve as a gateway into this new world – something like a teleportation device. This was, in fact, the main design concept behind the Samsung Gear VR. To achieve this concept, the designers at Samsung identified two points of emphasis – two targets that were crucial to creating this virtual reality gateway.




A wise man once said: “Less is more”


To be totally immersed in virtual reality, one must leave the real world behind. For an optimal experience, there should be no reminders of the division between the two realities. That is why Samsung’s focus was to eliminate all unnecessary hindrances, in order to help feel totally immersed in the virtual world presented to them.


Naturally, simplicity was the top priority. Designing the interface proved to be very tricky. Though Samsung has a wealth of experience in designing all sorts of interfaces, they were usually on a 2D plane, had a defined screen and also a set of buttons that controlled functions. Gear VR, on the other hand, offers a perfect spherical 3D view (which is basically 360°-by-360°), and the user cannot see the buttons while they are using the device.


So Samsung designed the interface from the bottom up, putting in only what was necessary. In the menu, for example, everything is focused on the center while the rest falls back. Visual effects were minimized as well. When you start your Gear VR, you see available apps and content against a dark background. When you push play, you go straight to watching the video — no breath-taking animations.


Aside from the focus wheel and volume rocker, all controls were slimmed down to motion recognition, an intuitive track pad and a ‘back’ button. You look, scroll and tap – that’s it. There is no separate menu button: the universal menu can be called by holding the back button. The volume rocker is located on the right side and the focus wheel is on the top, out of your way. So once you’re all set up, all you have to worry about is jumping straight in.


Simplicity was also a key theme for the exterior design. A simple and futuristic black and white color scheme rules the identity — no fancy colors that scream out for attention. Other than the hatch, the focus wheel, back button and volume rocker are the only physical buttons you see. Even these are toned down to blend seamlessly with the rest of the body. You see one simple black-and-white goggle-type device, not a box with a million buttons.


Shedding and balancing weight


Because Samsung Gear VR is worn on your head, the “Less is more” approach also weighed heavily on the hardware itself. Apart from the Gear VR, you also need to support your Galaxy Note 4. So it needs to be as light as possible. The weight must be balanced so it doesn’t stress your neck, and it can’t put too much pressure on your face.


Gear VR



Materials were carefully selected to make the Gear VR as light as possible. And as the engineers pushed for even less weight, the designers dug out holes in places where it would not affect the durability of the product. Every gram, every milligram, mattered as it could mean another minute, another second of usage without fatigue.


The next step was to balance this weight. Samsung carefully studied the existing goggles and helmets made for various uses. A helmet would be too uncomfortable, not to mention, it would get too hot. Goggles would be unbalanced, sagging toward the front and as a result putting too much pressure on the facial contact areas.


So after careful consideration, numerous mock-ups, uncountable hours of working with the Gear VR on, the result was a goggle-type form factor with a strap on top. The strap proved to be a very efficient way to balance the weight and ease pressure, giving it a near perfect ergonomic design. The idea, of course, is to make the Gear VR so comfortable that users forget they are wearing it.


Another effort to ease the pressure against users’ faces was the high-quality foam cushioning, lined with suede. In terms of size and dimension, the cushioning was revised again and again to take into account the size and shape of people heads and faces across cultures and ages.





Gear VR was a first for Samsung and it’s still new to many. Pioneering unchartered territory never comes easy, but it has its rewards. What do you think of the Gear VR design? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

by Abraham Pai

Corporate Communications, Samsung Electronics

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