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HTC's head designer on what's exciting in designing for mobile right now

Neil Bennett | July 1, 2015
HTC's head designer Drew Bamford tells us how you create interfaces and experiences for increasingly large phones and VR headsets – and how you design differently for Asia.

NB: The Vive is designed to track you moving around wearing it, using Kinect-style base stations. It also has two Wii Remote style controllers. How does this setup allow for more immersive experiences?

DB: "We're super excited about our hardware. We think it enables much higher fidelity interaction than [Oculus] because we have this tracking system that not only tracks the [headset] with these laser base stations, but also tracks our controllers with super high precision.

"What's unique about the interaction is that the tracking of the controllers is so precise that they feel like extensions of your hands and you can actually interact in really high fidelity in the environment. I think that's unlike any of our competitors so far.

"That will give us a real advantage in interactive experiences. Gaze tracking and selecting stuff with your gaze is [like ustwo's Lands End], it's nice if you don't have any other controls. But it's actually pretty unsatisfying because you have to constantly pause on things and it's very deliberate and slow and very low fidelity. Being able to use your hands with these controllers is really cool. That combined with our room scale experience, with an Oculus or a Gear, you're really just swiveling your head around or turning around in a desk chair.

"With our experience you can get up, stand up from your chair and walk around to the other side of the table and look underneath things. I think that will enable all sorts of new experiences that we haven't imagined yet."

NB: There's been a lot of buzz around Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset. Is AR interesting to you?

DB: "We're definitely interested in AR. We have to focus on VR in the near term because that's what we're about to launch. But actually, in VR, we can do similar experiences to that with scanning.

"We're also looking into different ways to capture the physical environment. Even just with a single camera now we just were playing around the other day with some Adobe software, for example, where you just capture a series of 20 images. Feed them into their software and it recreates a 3D model based on the images."

"With that or a stereo cameras or with depth sensing technology, you can create a 3D model of your physical environment and then you can do things like redecorate your room."

NB: All of the VR systems on the market are very much 1.0 products. Are the users you're targeting comfortable with that?

DB: "I think wearables are already at the point where people expect something quite polished. I think with VR, we probably have a little leeway still. [However] I think the early adopters will be quite technical. They're going to be PC gamers, which is a pretty technical crowd. I think they'll understand that this is the early days of VR and we're still experimenting with it a bit.


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