The Seebright “Ripple” Project
Goal: Create a handheld mixed reality device for smartphones for developers and early adopters of mixed reality technology.
Timeline: 2-3 Months from Design to Shipping.
During my time at Seebright Inc., we worked on many concepts to try and create an affordable option to bring mixed reality (Virtual and Augmented Reality) content to a wider audience.
In the Spring of 2016 we decided to try and follow the model that Google introduced with their Cardboard VR device, and create an Augmented Reality-capable device that utilized a smartphone to create mixed reality experiences using a combination of optical illusions and computer vision. This device would eventually go by the name “Ripple” in keeping with Seebright’s oceanic naming conventions, and also as a reference to the Seebright Wave Prototype, a more complex and advanced version of Seebright’s vision for an affordable mixed reality device.
At the time, I was tasked with helping Seebright’s Engineering Team to design a concept that would be easy to assemble and produce at limited quantities, while utilizing Seebright’s patented optical paths and Fresnel Lens technology. The design brief was as follows:
- Design must be made from readily available materials, and must be producible in small batches affordably.
- Design must make use of Seebright’s existing optical technology.
- Design must accommodate smartphones between 5″-6″.
- Design must be handheld and portable.
With these in mind, I sketched out a simple concept during my lunch break and showed it to our Product Engineer, Taylor Furtado:
This rough sketch outlined some of the ideas that would eventually make it to the final product, including the Velcro strap that would hold a phone in place during use, and the overall shape of the design. Heavily-inspired by the Google Cardboard, this design would utilize cardboard or Medium-Density Fiberboard for its construction.
The features of this design are as follows:
- Single-panel cardboard or MDF construction, with the necessary components glued to the body and cut-outs for the optical surfaces and lenses. The design is meant to to be folded and flat-packed for portability, and then assembled in the same manner as the Google Cardboard is shipped and assembled by the user.
- There are cut-outs and slots in the design in order to accommodate the Mirror, the Fresnel lens, and a reflective eyepiece that can be separated from the body for portability. Also present are dedicated cut outs for the user’s finger to facilitate screen taps for interactive experiences without having to resort to a magnetic switch or a capacitive touch button. Finally, there are finger placement indentations on the rear panel of the design. This was an attempt to make the design slightly more comfortable to hold.
- Lastly, the design utilized an elastic Velcro strap that would hold smartphone in place while the device is in use, and then used to secure the device once it’s teared-down and stowed away.
Eventually it was decided that the Ripple would utilize an Acrylic construction as opposed to the Cardboard/MDF material, which meant that the Ripple would have to be assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. Taylor began working on a design inspired by previous designs and the MDF Concept Sketch using Solidworks. While doing this, he had asked me to explore finger placement for the design and to try and see if there was a way to make the design more ergonomic. The result was the following sketch:
In this rough sketch, I explored the possibility of utilizing cardboard and acrylic for the construction of the design, with the acrylic side panels being the main load-bearing structure. However, most of the focus is on the placement of the indentations for the user’s fingers when they are holding the device. This was done as an attempt to make the design more ergonomic and comfortable to hold. Upon seeing this sketch, our Product Engineer decided to incorporate the “ripples” into his design with some tweaking, which eventually began to look like the following:
After the incorporation, several test models were laser cut from acrylic panels and assembled for ergonomics testing, which found that when placing the bottom indentation farther forward on the chassis, it was more comfortable to hold and much more stable. Now that the overall design was completed, Taylor and I worked closely together to try and improve certain aspects of the design and make subtle tweaks to the improved designs. These improvements are as follows:
- A peripheral window was added to the design, as studies in VR technology showed that motion sickness and disorientation could be combated by keeping the peripheral vision unobstructed.
- The forehead panel piece was indented with a subtle concave curve on the top and bottom edges in order to make the design more comfortable when pressed against the forehead.
- The eyepiece edges were rounded in order to keep with the current design aesthetic.
- The cutout of the Seebright “Shodo” Logo was added to the mirror panel in order to break up the unused space and provide some flair to the design. This ended up being one of the most recognizable parts of the Ripple in addition to the finger indentations.
- Asymmetrical slots and cutouts for each side in order to reduce assembly confusion.
After the tweaks were added and then tested in-house it was decided that the last revision of the Ripple design would be the one chosen for production. The final product ended up looking like this:
The Seebright Ripple began shipping as a Do-It-Yourself Assembly Kit in early Summer 2016, and then as a completely assembled product soon after. Over 50 Seebright Ripples were shipped during the summer before production ended in the Fall of 2016 In order to begin work on the next version of the Ripple, The Seebright Ripple 2. The entire process took 2-3 months.