Numerous stories have come out about individuals and companies creating DIY virtual reality headsets powered by smartphones, including at least two 3D printed varieties and Google’s cardboard Oculus Rift. Such VR headsets could potentially benefit the 3D printing world, as Davide Sher has previously pointed out, in that fully-immersive 3D modeling may lead to more intuitive design software tailored for 3D printing. It’s no surprise, then, that, seeing an opportunity in an important, emerging market, 3D printing industry leader 3D Systems has jumped into the virtual world with their own 3D printed VR mobile phone headset.
Today, 3D Systems announced a partnership with Vortex VR, Inc. and GameFace Labs to create Vortex VR’s new virtual reality mobile phone case and head mounted display (HMD) device, the VRTX I. With the latest LG G3 Quad HD smartphone acting as the device’s display, the VRTX I offers a wireless, high-definition VR immersion experience, made possible with 3D printing. Based on the partners involved, it seems that the new headset may take up where GameFace Labs’ HMD (outlined in the video below) left off.
The VRTX I is a much sleeker looking device than that in the video above, as designers at 3D Systems applied their 3D printing and materials expertise to help Vortex VR create a durable, yet lightweight, headset. The HMD was then 3D printed with the company’s selective laser sintering technology. And, due to the quick turnaround that 3D printing offers in comparison to traditional injection molding and tooling techniques, the VRTX I team was able to complete the entire design-to-manufacturing process in less than 30 days.
3DS’ Chief Marketing Officer, Cathy Lewis, comments on their latest endeavor, “This is an exciting project for 3D Systems, one that combines the power, flexibility and rapid time-to-value enabled by 3D printing with the incredible advancements in virtual reality and wearables. This will change how we design, manufacture and interact with these exponential technologies forever.”
Chairman and Interim CEO of Vortex, David Haines, adds, “With our technology partners, GameFace Labs and 3D Systems, we have been able to rapidly bring to market a mobile case and device with technology that has been developed to best leverage the Android OS, along with the powerhouse of hardware within the G3. This is the mobile VR experience everyone has been waiting for.”
After the launch of the company’s inaugural product, the VRTX I, Vortex VR plans to release more products and services throughout the VR ecosystem in the months to come. The VRTX I is currently available for purchase through the company’s website for $99, less than a third of the price of the Oculus Rift development kit.
Looking at the headset, you can see that the smartphone’s camera is exposed to the surrounding environment, which opens it up to augmented reality applications. 3D Systems is already involved in the world of mobile 3D scanning, with its iSense 3D scanner for iPad, and 3D Systems’ Project Ara partner, Google, is working on its own 3D scanning mobile device, Project Tango, slated to be manufactured by LG. I’m not quite sure how this web of business relationships work, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all of these companies came together to release a mobile 3D printed 3D scanning augmented/virtual reality device to be announced whenever Project Tango is ready for the public.