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Introducing the most absurd virtual reality headset of them all

Published May 14th, 2017 3:00PM EDT
vr headsets
Image: Ulm University

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Virtual reality tech has endured some serious growing pains already, and still hasn’t fully reached mainstream acceptance among consumers. Plenty of people still see VR headsets as too complicated, clunky, and simply not worth the investment or hassle. A new VR headset concept is making its big debut at the ACM CHI 2017 event and, well, it’s probably not going to help matters. It’s called FaceDisplay, and it might be the most ridiculous VR headset ever conceived.

Created by designers at Germany’s Ulm University, FaceDisplay aims to solve the problem of virtual reality being an isolating experience by allowing others to interact with the headset wearer in the virtual world. With a trio of large touchscreens, the FaceDisplay headset acts as an input device for both the wearer and anyone standing nearby. Bystanders can touch the headset’s displays to prompt input that the player will see in the virtual space — like spawning objects that the player can then interact with.

The idea here is to make VR more of an inclusive experience rather than simply a portal for the wearer to look through. The problem, unfortunately, is readily apparent even in the brief demo video offered by its creators. In short, the entire experience is far too awkward to have staying power.

Tapping the headset of someone who doesn’t know when or where you’re going to touch means guessing when they’re going to turn their head and quickly moving your hand to avoid the headset as they swing and turn. Likewise, using the touchscreen as an input device for the player themselves seems incredibly frustrating, and it’s clear in the video demo that it’s not terribly useful or accurate.

There’s definitely a lot of room to explore multi-person VR concepts and perhaps once virtual reality truly grabs the public’s imagination we’ll see something that makes it possible, but this probably isn’t it.