Mike Alger – VR Interface Design Pre-Visualisation Methods
Earlier this year, Matt Collishaw’s Somerset House exhibition, Thresholds, presented visitors with a virtual experience of William Fox Talbot’s early photography. Of significance from a conservational perspective, since it ‘displayed’ prints at risk of material deterioration if kept outside of archival conditions for any length of time, it’s one of several recent cross-disciplinary applications where the possibilities of VR technology to close distances of all kinds are being positively embraced.
Mike Alger, a graduate of 2015 MA Moving Image, references the fantastical imaginings of VR that we first became accustomed to in films such as Minority Report or Iron Man, where VR interfaces appear only as barely there yet seductively powerful movements – physics-defying tai-chi swipes in the air.
Back in real life though, and as proposed by Alger’s project, the current challenge to make ready the virtual reality technologies of the future lays in refining operating systems for greater comfort and ease of use in everyday contexts.
Having the opportunity to experiment with prototyping for VR using developer kits of the Oculus Rift headset during his studies at Ravensbourne, Alger was able to come to an important question; how might the two dimensional paradigm of operating systems be ergonomically redesigned for head mounted displays?
Alger explains that “Creating a game, for example, may require 3D modelling, image editing and coding. While each have tools on traditional 2D computer screens, no interfaces have been created that are designed for these tasks in the volume of virtual reality. A user can’t even see their keyboard to type. They’re now moving their body in ways that weren’t the case with the previous mouse and keyboard system. It would seem initially that everything we know about digital interaction design is thrown out the window as the majority of our current interfaces are perceived as the two dimensional screens of computer monitors and smartphone screens”.
With considerations of reducing screen space for quicker, more fluent multi-tasking and increased productivity, better navigation, and, crucially, allowing users to spatially organise tasks, VR is repositioned from an interactive technological tool of display to something far more accessible, user-friendly and creative in the case of design solutions like Alger’s.
Mike Alger is an interaction designer working on user experience for VR at Google. After earning a bachelor’s degree in digital media, he documented his ‘VR Interface Design Pre-Visualization Methods’ online while focusing on volumetric digital design for his masters at Ravemsbourne. He is passionate about bringing human-centered usability and design principles to the next generation of computing technologies and display formats.