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Product Design Story of the Varjo XR-4 Series: Next-Generation Headsets Optimized for Comfort and Usability

March 26, 2024
by Tuomas Nylén, Principal Industrial Designer, Varjo
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Design, Engineering

Industrial design has been an integral part of building Varjo’s vision and product experiences from day one. We are in constant seek of balance between high performance hardware and human factors resulting unmatched immersive experience, packed in highly functional and well build physical form factor.
Varjo XR-4 design

The design process of a high-tech product is a game of solving problems and balancing tradeoffs but always focusing on what is best for the end user. At Varjo, we shape the physical product experience by creating solutions for the identified problems through prototyping, validating results, and iterating to make the final products both ergonomic, usable, appealing and to meet the exacting standards in visual and tactile quality.

This blog post delves into design thinking that has driven the physical form, materials, and functional features of the Varjo XR-4 series headsets, designed to ensure that our products do not just perform exceptionally but also feel right when you use them.

 

CONTENTS

DESIGN: FOUNDATIONSCOLOR INTENTSOLID PRODUCT RANGE
ERGONOMICS: ADAPTIVE DESIGN FOR COMFORTMINIMIZED PRESSURE AGAINST FACEHEAD SUPPORTS AND OPTIMIZED WEIGHT BALANCEADJUSTMENT INTERFACE

Designed & Engineered for the End Users

Progressive Simplicity, Concealing High Complexity

Varjo headset comfortIn the XR-4 design, we wanted to create a product that communicates a sense of simplicity while concealing the vast technological complexity. At the core of the XR-4 device is the magnesium frame, a highly accurate mount for all the key hardware elements, cameras, sensors, and the mainboard.

The foundation for optical fidelity is the dual Aspheric optical lens and chamber design. The selected optics configuration resulted in prominent physical volume. We explored multiple ways to distribute both the physical and visual mass while designing as robust and light weight structure as possible simultaneously serving for heat dissipation and other required functions.

The chosen design direction is based on the approach where a robust and protective shell wraps around a delicate core. The resulting product design aims to embody a progressive form language, precisely controlled dimensions, sculpted shapes, and well-balanced details.

Clarity Through Color

One of the most significant visual differences in the XR-4 design compared to previous all-black Varjo product generations is the color direction of the XR-4 series.

The body parts’ dual-tone color scheme, where the black core parts interfaces the user’s head are layered under the light grey shell, contributes to the same design goal as the form factor – The intention of dividing and balancing the overall visual volume.

Also, the approach creates a clear visual hierarchy that contributes both for product’s usability and the visual balance.

 

Distinctively Varjo

From the beginning, one of the noticeable visual elements for Varjo headsets has been mirror front face. It is a distinctive element that stands out from the crowd, manifests the Varjo’s hi-tech identity and makes the product’s character alive by reflecting the surrounding environment, objects, and spectators.

Varjo XR-4 comfort
XR-4 accessories

Solid Design Through the Product Range

The XR-4 series peripheral range, including the chargers, adapters, cables, and controllers are crafted with the same attention to detail and for the uncompromised user experience as the headset.

The controllers were designed in collaboration with Razer, whose design team brought vast expertise on refining controllers.

The connectivity peripherals’ pure design language makes them highly functional. As none of the products are off-the-shelf items, we managed to enhance the user experience by injecting novel solutions for practical problems.

As for example, the cable plugs and matching connector interface in headset and adapter share a novel anti-detach feature, preventing unintentional unplugging and securing the connections.

Benchmark For Pro-Grade Comfort

Focus On Highly Adaptive Design

In ergonomics design a primary focus area was to provide an ergonomic solution for multi-user and shared device use contexts. For that, instead of creating a range of various changeable parts, we harnessed our skills and experience on the clear goal to design a product that fits for all heads.

In practice this converts to a highly adaptive headband design where the adjustments and contact points against the head accommodate for broad range of head sizes, shapes, and face topologies.

Varjo adaptive design
XR-4 Face cushions

Zero Pressure On Face

One of the key problems we identified and focused on tackling in the XR-4 design was the pressure against sensitive face areas, familiar to all ski-goggle type face cushion designs. In Varjo’s previous product generation, we introduced a tilt adjustment helping to ease the pressure at the nose surroundings and cheek area.

Yet, based on the user feedback and design validation, we decided to pivot to a different approach. In the XR-4 series the face interface combines traditional foam and PU leather cushion part and a light blocking mask injection molded of silicon. The solution guarantees pressure points being applied to the forehead area only, while the sensitive areas of the face remain intact.

The carefully shaped thin and silky feel material keeps the ambient light away from the optics, adapts to various face shapes and thus feels super comfortable throughout the use session. The flexible material also eases the fit with eyeglasses when putting the headset on or taking off and during use by removing potential pressure feel from temples area.

Head Supports Inspired by Frame Structures

The other crucial part for comfort was providing sufficient support and fit on the back and top of the head. We decided to improve the well-acknowledged pad design of the previous generation XR-3 product. During the process we were inspired by airplane frame structures and contemporary office chair designs, both targeting lightweight and firm, yet elastic structures. As an outcome the XR-4 series head pads are a combination of elastic frame, firm cushion foam, synthetic textile mesh and a swivel joint suspension. The chosen materials and structural design are contributing for optimal support, adaptivity and maximum heat dissipation during the use.

Optimized Weight Balance

Weight can be considered one of the most important comfort factors in any wearable devices, especially head mounted displays. With all the inbuilt tech, the uncompromised dual aspheric optics, hardware and cameras, the total weight of the front section adds up to 665 grams (about 1.47 Lb). We prototyped and validated different weight reduction options, resulting in the realization that the total sum of weight is not the ultimate deal breaker, instead, how the weight is distributed around the head is what matters in prolonged use sessions. For that we added counterbalancing weight on the back section of the device, easing the front heaviness and making the overall feel highly balanced.

XR-4 head supports
Varjo XR-4 comfort

Swift Adjustments – A Quick Lane Into Full Immersion

The adaptiveness theme in design is further articulated in three other key features in XR-4 series products. To get the best visual quality delivered by the optics, the correct eye interpupillary distance is the key element. Like our previous generation devices, adjustment is fully automated (auto-IPD) from the user standpoint, no single action is needed when the headset is put on head.

The ability to quickly and comfortably enter or exit immersion makes the headset an effortless extension of the user’s natural workflow. Instead of tightening the headband by rotating the back wheel multiple times we wanted to enhance the user experience. User can release the headband by pushing the “quick release” latch down at the back adjustment interface. The quick release feature is easy to operate, and it significantly shortens the putting headset on and taking off sequences.

Globally more than half of the adult population use some form of vision correction. Given the fact, we wanted to enhance the compatibility with eyewear but beyond that, support accommodation of different facial topologies. We designed an adjustment system which enables a snappy and effortless way to adjust the lens eye distance, called the field-of-view adjustment. This allows users to adjust the lens distance from the eyes enabling both space for eyewear, and customization of the achievable field-of-view benefiting every user. A simple button press-and-hold while moving the headset body forth and back gives ultra-fast lane for the best immersion.

Interested in experiencing the game-changing XR-4 design features first-hand? Reach out to our expert sales team to learn more about the devices.

 

Please note that the Varjo XR-4 Series software is still in beta. You can explore the software updates in our recent blog post.

Organizations

XR-4 and XR-4 Focal Edition are available in our web store and through selected Varjo resellers to business customers in nearly 40 countries.

Individuals

Private customers can order Aero through our selected Varjo resellers. Shipping to EU, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

Organizations

Business customers have access to our full product range.

Individuals

Private customers can order Aero through our selected Varjo resellers.