This year at CES, we saw an explosion of affordable virtual reality (VR) solutions primed to hit the market in 2017. This isn’t terribly surprising, given the amount of airtime VR received in 2016, with developer kits flying off the shelf for Oculus Rift and PlayStation’s VR component drawing huge crowds.
The technical wow factor has a habit of overshadowing the cultural impact of these innovations: for the first time, we’re seeing a common design language emerge among the disparate platforms and applications.
Learning from Smart Phone History
The iPhone was not the first full touch-screen smartphone to hit the market, but Apple was the first to get it right.
With Apple leading the charge on holistic design and interaction, users only had to learn a few basic interactions before they were ready to use any app. Consistency in button size/function, menu operation and navigation made the new technology accessible and approachable for all users.
It is this standardization that VR desperately needs to become viable.
Common Ground on VR Interactions
Design and interaction language in the VR space is currently in a state similar to smartphones B.I. (Before iPhone). All the major VR players are experimenting and creating their own interactions and design languages.
What a button should look like in 3D, how a 3D menu system should operate, how you draw a user’s attention outside of their field of view and how to zoom are slowly standardizing.
With new and emerging technology, designers and developers need to be mindful of the barriers to entry. With a barrier too high, too complex, or too frustrating, users will give up on the application or device.
Consider any other major technological leap—would operating a motor vehicle be easy if every make and model used different rules for core interactions like turn signals? For the placement of gas, brake, clutch?
A common design language with basic foundational principles—widely accepted by all manufacturers—will usher forward a new VR era.
And we’re ready.