Announced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, the Sony Head Mounted Display has turned more than a few heads. The team at Sony that saw this ambitious concept through to commercial fruition was a group of R&D designers. It's their brand of dedication that will forge the Sony of tomorrow.
Inagaki:Sony is always looking to the future and conducting R&D in technology and design. The HMZ-T1, a 3D-ready head-mounted display, emerged from this kind of exploratory design.
It all began at a demonstration of OLED display technology under development, when an engineer who wanted to see us use the technology in a head-mounted display invited us to a proof-of-concept test, to see for ourselves if the small OLED screens could truly simulate a 62.5-foot (19 m) theater screen.
Putting the display on and seeing the screen firsthand was an eye-opener. The sense of presence and immersion were amazing. We knew then that it could deliver a true "personal theater" experience in the comfort of home.
Still, we faced significant hurdles in design to make it happen. For example, the lens unit alone weighed more than 200 g. How could we ensure a secure and comfortable fit? To solve these issues, we estimated the development period and launched an exploratory design project. Among many promising designers, Yasuhide was chosen to lead the project. He had done some exploratory design work in the past that led to unique headphones, and we hoped he could draw insight from the experience.
Hosoda:I, too, was quite impressed when I tried out the proof-of-concept model. Right before my eyes was something I shouldn't have been able to see. This virtual realm was also easy to enter and leave as we pleased. The early prototype would have excited any designer, and in fact, when we began looking at it more closely, the project soon piqued the interest of other designers. That's how we formed an interdisciplinary designer "dream team."
With the project goal of pioneering personal theater and introducing new dimensions in HD entertainment in mind, our team began considering new aspects of design-new ways of wearing the viewer and enjoying content-that would make it possible.
Hosoda:Our first task was obviously deciding how the player should be worn. To identify and eliminate problems, we tried on a wooden box weighted with sinkers-probably the most "un-Sony-like" approach.
Exploratory design is usually the business of dreams, rather than a dream of more business, so to speak. At the stage of production-oriented design, we turn projects over to designers who specialize in the particular product category involved. For the viewer, though, we had no time to waste with ordinary design production. It was decided that those of us who contributed in exploratory design would develop our ideas into the finished product, which is very rare at Sony.
One early problem was that no matter how we arranged the internal components, we ended up with a chunky, blocky viewer. Wearing this kind of display for a while would be uncomfortable. To resolve this issue, we reversed tack. Instead of designing from the inside-out, we would decide the optimal body shape from a designer's perspective and work toward that. In a process true to Sony ideals, we sought a compelling product by going back to basics.
Our first opportunity to show the public would be at the impending CES exhibition, so we needed a conceptual prototype. We wanted to unveil a show-stopping concept, something with impact. This motivated me to sketch a viewer, which I gave to Yoshiaki for modeling. After rapid prototyping the next day, we had a mock-up. It was Yoshiaki who helped us move ahead under the tight schedule.
Kumagai:Freehand sketching sets Yasuhide apart from most contemporary designers, and his sketches are dynamic, compelling, and powerful. I've never met a designer who can sketch beautiful curves as freely as he can. Each new sketch made me want to see the real thing with my own eyes as soon as possible.
Examining the mock-up together led to sketches with even more impressive contours, and the same was true for sketches of the processor unit. You may notice that the front panel is slightly curved. Yasuhide acted on a suggestion of mine to create this curvature. With a plain, flat surface, the processor unit wouldn't have matched the viewer, which is nothing but curves, but now the two units are nicely matched.