Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The problem with hats.

Let me begin by saying that I never give fashion advice.  Why?  Well, no one ever seems to ask me for fashion advice.

I like to think they are just terribly intimidated.*

* I might be wrong.

Here's a VR post about fashion.  Namely the issues with VR headgear and the problem of it not currently win a lot of points with people for style.

I have a couple of working theories on why this might be and possibly how we might come to deal with it.  All very scientific and research based.

Part I - The Baseball Cap Theory

Baseball caps.  They seem to ebb and flow between WILDLY POPULAR and PRETTY POPULAR at any given time.  If you do a quick Google search, using the search term "baseball cap" and pretty much any famous person, you will likely get a hit.  I had a pretty good streak going of finding anyone I looked for up until I tried Stephen Hawking, but he's British so the odds might have not been in my favor.

Go ahead and try it, see if I'm wrong. *  I'll wait here.

* I might be wrong

OK, now.  Let's change gears a bit and take a look at another bit of head gear called a "visor".  You can find these on Google as well.

Almost IDENTICAL to baseball caps in terms of form and certainly function, they are just missing the top part.  What can you see at the top?  A person's hair. *

* Unless they don't have hair, like the angry man on the left.

Now, rerun the same search as you did before subsisting "baseball cap" for "visor" + famous person's name. You'll notice that you have a much harder time finding a match, you'll also find that if you follow the image link for anyone you DO find, it will likely end up being tied to an article that mocks them.

Same celebrities, and as far as I can see basically the same functional baseball cap design only without the top and yet, we see nothing but scorn and ridicule.  It's even so notably bad that the stars get called on it later during late night tv.

"What were you thinking?!?!  HA HA HA!" "I know right?  What was I thinking?  HA HA HA!?!?!"

So..... what's going on?  These are people with great hair, but humans seem to react poorly to a head that is encircled halfway horizontally and yet favorably to a head that is fully covered.

Why?  I have no idea.  Research is required!

Part II - Flowing faces

Let's explore it a bit, shall we?  I'm going it has something to do with how important faces are to us in this world.  We are VERY sensitive to recognizing faces and we REALLY don't like it when something screws with the story a face has to tell.  What kind of story? Well...

Here we have Tom Cruise and the story of his face is something like this for our brain:  Eyes, Nose, Mouth.  Glance at the photo and I'm pretty much going to guarantee the first thing you look at on any face are the eyes and then you'll read the rest top to bottom.

OK, go!:

Pretty simple story right?  Eyes -> Nose -> Mouth.  Beginning -> middle -> end.

Now, our brain is fine with it, if we tell it the beginning and the middle of the story but leave off the end:  eyes, nose........

If fact, it starts to make up things to end the story like "Oh, Tom looks like he's peeking over a wall!"

Our brain also seems to be pretty OKish with this story having a middle and a end as well:  ....., nose, mouth.  In fact, without the eyes, we seem to go right to the mouth and work backwards.  Mouth, eyes.

We really miss eyes though.  Your brain will wander around and keep searching for the beginning of the story.  "Where are the eyes.... Where the hell are the eyes?"  You brain will keep muttering.  "Where ARE they goddamn it??!"

Want to know what our brains really DON'T like?  Having the story interrupted.  Eyes, Mouth.  Our brain just falls over and curls up at how wrong things have suddenly become with the world.

When our brains get irritated by something, the response oddly seems to creep up in the form of "this is silly / funny / weird / odd."

Modern fashion seems to recognize this.  You can cover up your mouth no problem and your brain does not start to giggle or lash out with mockery.

Cover up both eyes and we still seem to have a good grasp of "Everything is OK here"*

* except I can't find the eyes!  Where are the eyes!!?!

It is HARD however to find images of someone covering up their nose and breaking up the story flow of the face.  I had to ride Google all the way to Harajuku, Japan before I found a  consistent resource of images that involved of nose covering fashion.

This essentially is cheating as apparently you can find every God damn look you might possibly think of in Harujiku.


Popular fashion seems to be related in some what to this concept of NOT breaking up a face horizontally.  At least this is what the boys in the lab are telling me. a problem for us.

There has been this hope that as VR progresses, the technology will get far better and far, far smaller.  The VR HMD (head mounted displays) of the future will be light and much smaller.  No wires, light weight....  So we'd go from THIS:

To something like.... this?

Or this...

Despite the thin size, our brains aren't particularly thrilled with these images.  The face flow is interrupted.

You might think it was hopeless, as did I, until I came across the work of Duster132 (  When you get a chance take a look at some of his stuff, he almost exclusively deals with designs that have no visible eyes, yet all of them still have the appearance of being able to see. 

I think we can pull this off.  It seems to require molded hmds's that are broken up into uneven surfaces and soft materials intertwined with the hard surfaces.  I don't have all the answers but I'm going to recommend the following guidelines:

  • If you cover the eyes, you need to cover the head.
  • The geometry of the HMD can't be a horizontal line, you need to break it up and possibly introduce some kind of vertical drop, possibly a structure that could house stereo mics.
  • Involve hood scarfs of some kind.
  • The surface of the HMD needs to be varied, a flat plane is about the worst design you could come up with.  (which unfortunately is the current design choice for CV1.)

There is hope!  I hope you enjoyed this look at fashion, I might make it a regular thing! * 

* Once every 20 years sounds about right...

Give me a shout at @ID_R_McGregor  on twitter or send me an email at


  1. Hmm....I see where you are going and agree with most of the sentiment..but..And sunglasses? Big and small? Worn by every person who lives in a sunny place, and there is nothing weird about not seeing people's eyes behind those cold, flat, shiny black plastic lenses?

    1. You are right on this and good to bring it up. There's another whole thing that can be said about recreating eyes. Sunglasses give us "eyes" to look at on a face and maybe one day I we can get the tech down to a similar form factor. I'm interested right now in what we can do with the current "big box on face" issue. I should include an edit here, as I think this is a very good point!