Local makers convince more people to try VR with this unique headset

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When attempting to persuade someone to try out virtual reality (VR) for the first time, you may stumble at the starting blocks when they see the intimidating amount of straps, harnesses and wires sprouting out from the headset.

This is a problem Rick Treweek and his VR company Alt Reality regularly face. The solution came in the form of meeting another VR enthusiast, Phathwa Senene, at the DIZ makerspace. Both men had recently 3D printed Google Cardboard headsets and began collaborating on a better kind of design.

After some design work in Sketchup they took inspiration from masquerade masks and opera goggles which have handles.

“We were looking at the VR projects and realised that a lot of the time people would be a bit unsure of putting this strange device on to their head as you normally do with straps,” Treweek said,  “Through developing the handle it became a lot easier to identify with. I think it makes people think of opera binoculars and know to put them to their face.”

We had a chance to try out this new headset at a recent meetup. It’s nice and light thanks to the plastic body and the compact electronics – simply a Samsung Gear 360 and an S7 phone with lenses.

With no official name at the moment, referred to simply as the “Masquerade Goggles” or “Mark II”, Treweek and his team are constantly working to improve them. Fibre glass wrapping and other finishing techniques are being tried out and they have a lot of “crazy designs” on the drawing board which we’ll be seeing soon.

If you’re interested to try these out yourself, your best bet is swinging past the DIZ Makerspace in Braamfontein where Alt Reality is located. Alternatively, the company works on a contractual basis where they create virtual reality experiences for their customers.

IBM, Jaguar, Denel Aviation and more have used their services. For the launch of IBM’s second research lab in Africa, Alt Reality created 20 of these headsets to take participants on an enhanced VR tour of the lab.

With this just the start of this simple yet clever design, we’re sure to hear more about it soon, so keep checking back to makers.htxt for more information.

While you wait we recommended reading our story on Alt Reality when it first started as well as Art Machina, Treweek’s one-man art show of strictly 3D printed works.

As for Phathwa Senene, we’ll soon have a story on him and his smart Arduino soccer ball.

Clinton Matos

Clinton Matos

Clinton has been a programmer, engineering student, project manager, asset controller and even a farrier. Now he handles the maker side of htxt.africa.