There’s been a lot of hype about VR technology in recent months. Ever since the Oculus Rift concept was announced, it seems like everyone and their grandma has been pushing to develop and release their own ‘unique’ VR technology—with Google, Samsung, HTC, and Sony following suit.

We have talked in the past about how VR is opening up new realms of possibility for GUI design, as we move away from app icons towards widgets, voice control, and haptic rendering. However, it seems many designers and programmers are still clinging to the tried, tested, and true formula of the app icon grid. Let’s take a look at how app icons are being implemented into these VR spaces.

The case of the DODO

VR is still in its early days, with the first headsets only very recently hitting the consumer market. However, there is already a lot of movement on developing app stores specifically for VR apps—which means app icons.

One such example is that of the DODOcase VR app store. This app store is designed to offer users access to a database of what they call “the most comprehensive list of Android Virtual Reality content” (@DODOsays) for the developer’s smartphone VR viewer.

Their VR ‘headset’ might not quite be on the level of the Oculus Rift, but the work they are doing demonstrates some early steps towards developing truly 3D icons. As you can see in the screenshot below, the actual visuals of the icons are quite rudimentary—the icons are simply projected onto cubes—but what makes this system unique is how it is navigated.

Users simply need to tilt their phones (i.e. their heads) horizontally in order to browse through these app icons, removing the need to tap or click icons altogether. Could this be the start of something much bigger, such as working icons into tactile feedback systems?

VR interface

VR videos

A fortnight ago, we discussed the possibility of animated, motion app icons as being the future of launcher GUIs. While animated app icons may not be commonplace yet, we’re already seeing launcher interfaces in motion—in the form of VR video libraries.

VR video apps typically allow users to view short 360° videos through their headset or goggles. (If you don’t know what a 360° video is, this video starring Snoop Dogg is a good example.) These give the viewer the experience of being very much in the video.

We’re yet to reach the stage where these videos allow the opportunity for direct user interaction (as in a VR game world), but we aren’t far off. Imagine a world where, instead of menus, users can walk directly through a 360° virtual environment and interact with menu elements in that 3D environment. We might not have to imagine for much longer.

VR interaction

Hovercast VR is a menu interface for virtual reality environments. What makes it unique is that it ‘radiates’ from the palm of the user’s hand. It is highly customizable and works with motion controller technology to allow users to interact with menus in a VR environment. This gives developers and designers the ability to create icons and GUIs within a completely new paradigm—where the interface is no longer just a means of accessing certain elements of a virtual environment, but an inseparable part of the experience itself.

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