Launching today, Figment VR is vying to be another way to make virtual reality more accessible. Zi Wang, an ex-Googler, wanted to design something more portable and durable than what Google Cardboard could offer. “It is a good way to at least give people a general, quick intro to what virtual reality is,” Wang tells CH, as Cardboard’s low price and mobility makes it much more approachable than the expensive Ferrari of VR, Oculus Rift—the fully immersive headset that unfortunately is very tethered experience and requires a PC. “The challenge with cardboard is, you’re not going to be able to carry it around with you everywhere you go,” he continues, noting its bulky size and potential damage by oily foreheads or bad weather. A year-long ideation process resulted in Figment VR, a discreet VR and AR phone case that adds very little bulk to your current smartphone—meaning you’ll have it on hand, all of the time.
Figment VR is more than portable, it’s pocketable, Wang emphasizes: “It’s kind of a riff off of the early 2000s, when there was the notion of a thousand songs in your pocket. You can [now] have virtual reality in your pocket.” He continues, “Because we’re designing something that’s in a familiar form factor as a phone case, it needs to serve its primary functionality.” Great care has been given to create—first and foremost—a durable, protective phone case where the side buttons and audio jack are easily accessible and the camera flash isn’t blocked, for example. But slide two buttons on the back and the mechanism unfolds quickly and smoothly to bring the stereoscopic lenses out. (It kind of reminded us of the Nintendo DS.) Move the phone up, down, side to side as you whip around to see things in “another” dimension.
In terms of what you can be watching: Figment VR is fully compatible with any apps written for Google Cardboard. There are also VR content creators like Jaunt offering fully immersive, live-action experiences like a Paul McCartney concert or a Mets vs Dodgers game, so you can take your fandom to 360 degrees. In contrast to Oculus Rift, which is an isolating experience due to its complete immersion, Figment VR, like Google Cardboard, has the advantage of freely sharing your VR experience with newbie friends.
Early-bird backers can reserve a case for iPhone 6 or 6s by pledging $49 ($10 more if you own an iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6s Plus) to Figment VR’s Kickstarter. Expected delivery is spring 2016.
Lead image by Cool Hunting, all others courtesy of Figment VR