HP Proposes 'VR Snacking' as a Solution for Engineering Workflows

Opera Glass, a new proof of concept from HP Labs, aims to more seamlessly blend virtual reality into design engineering workflows.

An attendee at the 2018 Autodesk University Conference tries a demo of HP Labs' proof of concept for Opera Glass. (Image source: HP)

Even VR enthusiasts have to admit it can be a cumbersome experience: putting on a head-mounted display (HMD), handling controllers, possibly setting up sensors, and more. This experience is just inconvenient enough to keep engineers working with CAD and a standard workstation setup.

One solution, as proposed by HP Labs—the exploratory R&D wing of HP—is the concept of “VR snacking”—letting users quickly and easily switch between a standard monitor display and a VR headset. Think of it as having a dual-monitor setup—only the VR headset functions as the second monitor.

HP unveiled a proof of concept for VR snacking at the 2018 Autodesk University Conference in Las Vegas with a headset called Opera Glass. True to its namesake, the design of Opera Glass harkens back to old opera glasses (or theater glasses)—essentially, a small pair of binoculars on a stick. The idea is to eliminate the need to completely strap on a headset and allow designers to quickly look through the headset for quick work checks.

Let's say an engineer is designing a new part in 3D CAD. Anyone that has done this will be familiar with potential issues of scale and fit. One of the advantages of VR-based design and digital twins is they offer a glimpse of real world fidelity without having to produce a physical part. However, not many engineers are yet inclined or accustomed to designing solely in VR. In addition, switching back and forth between VR and 3D CAD can be a time suck.

According to a statement from HP, “HP Labs asked, 'What if...without leaving the desk, the designer grabs the VR Opera Glasses and looks through the VR view? The [product] is virtually presented at full scale. The designer returns to 3D CAD and modifies the design. The designer can quickly—nearly seamlessly—switch from 3D CAD to VR without getting up or gearing up.'”

An HP spokesperson told Design News that the company as of yet has no official plans to make Opera Glass an official product. Rather than a working prototype of a new product, what was on display at Autodesk University appears to be HP's Windows Mixed Reality headset with some external modifications to allow for the stick attachment.

What do you think of this idea? Would you opt for VR snacking over a full-on VR setup for your workflow? Let us know in the comments!

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics.

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