Virtual reality is slowly but surely marching toward the mainstream, and it's dragging 360-degree video along with it. With that, the number of ways we can watch this content is growing, too: Samsung finally released a consumer version of the Gear VR, the Oculus Rift is on the horizon, and The New York Times dropped a million Google Cardboard viewers on US doorsteps last week.
Cardboard is the most approachable (and most affordable) of these options, but it's still not necessarily that portable. At least, you can't carry it in your pocket, which means there will inevitably be times when you'll want to engage with some immersive content and can't. So how do you enable around-the-clock VR viewing? Build it into a phone case, of course.
The Figment VR viewer is a slick-looking, soft touch-coated iPhone case with built-in goggles that flip around from the back. It comes in white or black and works with a number of VR-friendly apps, like Google Cardboard, Jaunt VR, VRSE, or even the 360-degree videos found on YouTube or Facebook.
The case is made from almost 30 different pieces — each made of either durable plastic or 6000 series aluminum — though you wouldn't know it by just looking. It's a really clean, sharp design — no surprise, considering it comes from Quantum Bakery, the same team that designed the laser light-filled Glow headphones earlier that raised half a million dollars earlier this year on Kickstarter. Even the flipping action feels right — when you pull at the two circular triggers, the goggles smoothly snap over to the other side, and CEO Zi Wang says the easing on this movement will be even more pronounced in the final versions.
As a phone case, it's not too unwieldy
Of course, it's also a phone case. And when the goggles are snapped back into place, it's not that obtrusive of a case, either. There are raised buttons for volume and power control, a slot for the lightning cable, and a cutout at the top so the camera and flash still work. (That last one's not just cosmetic, Wang says the company wants Figment to be used for augmented reality down the road, too.) It might not be your first choice of phone case, but if access to 360-degree videos and early virtual reality content is a priority, it's nearly the only option — and certainly more elegant than some of of its ambitious competition.
The Kickstarter for Figment VR launched today, and the company is making models for iPhone 6, 6S, 6 Plus, and 6S Plus. (A version for Android phones is in the works.) A limited number will be available for $49, and the case will eventually retail for $79.