Feature Design Sony Head Mounted Display HMZ-T1
Head Mounted Display “Personal 3D Viewer” HMZ-T1

Controlling the viewer from inside the virtual realm

Toshiyuki Kimura

Kimura:My task was to develop the viewer GUI, based on television setting screens, but I found myself hesitating as soon as I put the prototype on to try it out. Once you wear the viewer, you can't see anything outside in front of you. TV setting screens are closely linked to the remote control, but this viewer calls for GUI design optimized for operation without looking.

I set out to develop a GUI that gives you the sense you're controlling the viewer directly from inside the virtual realm. I wanted to blur the boundaries between you and the viewer by seamlessly linking physical sensations and the GUI.

To do it, I began by preparing the helpful start screen, which introduces the shapes and functions of the controls using straightforward illustrations. This gives you a general understanding of the controls, and even if you have to grope for the buttons a little, you'll master the settings in no time. The viewer can also control Blu-ray or DVD players, so we carefully reviewed both the content and form of relevant screens to avoid any omissions in instructions.

Another focus in GUI design was menu interaction during playback. Although most Sony TV setting menus are on the left side of the screen, we decided to position the viewer menu on the right, again hoping to link physical sensations more closely with visual information.

We also had to avoid layering unmodified 2D menus over substantial-looking 3D images, which would look very unnatural. For a more natural appearance, we blurred the menu edges. These matters deserved careful attention, because the viewer is even more immersive than 3D-ready televisions.

Structurally, the menus follow basic Sony design guidelines, but you may notice that the setting screens give a different impression than those on Sony televisions. The viewer is quite a different product from a television; recycling setting screens from TVs would be negligent. In the viewer hardware and GUI alike, we sought an exciting launch impression. This is why we chose blue for icons, menus, and the highlighting of selected items. The blue glow of our model at CES was memorable, and I knew it had taken considerable work to include the blue LED on the front of the HMZ-T1. I wanted to build on the impression made by the blue LED.

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Extraordinary design for a manual you won't be able to see

Kumiko Matsuda

Matsuda:For the user manual, we knew a new approach was in order. In the first place, although people will be very excited to use the viewer, it's a product no one's familiar with yet. Second, once you put it on, you won't be able to see any printed guides or user manuals. And third, you won't be able to watch in 3D unless you're wearing the viewer correctly. We had to account for each of these considerations when creating the documentation.

Not being able to read manuals once you put the viewer on was our first obstacle. This prompted a fresh look at the series of actions taken initially, from unboxing the units to connecting them, putting the viewer on and adjusting it for a good fit, configuring the settings, enjoying some content, and then controlling it in various ways and troubleshooting any issues, as needed. For each stage of use, Toshiyuki and I considered how much information to convey in printed form and how much to convey through the GUI.

My first priority was to satisfy owners eager to try out the viewer, so I developed the Startup Guide-a simple instruction sheet that's all you need to read before enjoying content. In some ways, it's like a treasure map.

After some thought about just how simple and straightforward we could make the instructions, I summarized them in four basic steps: connecting equipment, putting the viewer on, configuring the settings, and enjoying content. We were especially careful about explaining how to wear and adjust the viewer for a good fit. It's surprising how most of us don't have a good grasp of the relative positions of our own nose and eyes. Similarly, we might not notice if the viewer slips forward too much, when we can't see. The guide advises readers of these issues and explains setup with illustrations.

The fact that this scrupulously designed guide is in color will entice you to pick it up before examining the other manual later.

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Inagaki:There's a certain joy in our exploratory design projects, when we see things for the first time that no one else has ever seen. This makes it even more satisfying when we have the opportunity to develop these concepts into products. Maybe that's why our project members were so diligent. Although in all respects we were searching for answers in the dark, the viewer is so polished you might never guess it's the first of its kind. Don't miss a chance to explore immersive new 3D realms with the HMZ-T1.

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