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Wearable Tech

LG's G5 designers respect your hairstyle, get philosophical

Time travel and Pandora's Box. This is how the guys who made LG's coif-friendly VR goggles feel about 360-degree video that shows you more than any mere photo can.

Sarah Tew / CBS Interactive

On the phone screen in front of me, I see "myself" walking down a sunny, cobbled street in Sweden. Only it's not really me who's striding along when I swipe at the 360-degree video I'm watching on the LG G5, it's LG's design chief Jung-hun Lee.

A tube of lipstick inspired LG's 360 Cam design.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I swipe again and now I'm looking at clouds that dot the vibrant blue sky. It doesn't matter that this isn't my memory. Even though I'm eyeing it from a two-dimensional screen, I'm more transported to this place than if I were viewing photos alone.

In reality, I'm sitting in a conference room on a gray day at LG's Research and Design center in Seoul, South Korea, where conversation has meandered to the topic of virtual reality. It's an industry that LG has recently joined through its LG 360 Cam and 360 VR virtual reality visor, both which work with the G5 phone.

LG's design chief Lee is paid to think about the task of design, but he can't help gushing about the way that 360-video, which captures the whole of the world around you, has spilled past the boundaries of work and into his personal life.

Shooting and sharing 360-video has changed his philosophy, from the simple way he shows his wife and kids "pictures" during family dinners to the way that he has a deeper understanding of other people's experiences. The munchkins now ask their dad to take 360-video instead of 2D photos.


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Mark Hobbs/CNET

"Usually you use only your eyeballs," Lee said of photos. "When you look at [360-video], you actually feel the entire area."

Love for locks, Pandora's box

The trend in the industry is moving toward this kind of immersive content, Lee continued. "Everyone knows that. But when we look at the current market, it's focused on professional gamers and techies. It's not for the public." From LG's perspective, the task is to make the devices easy enough for ordinary people to use.

That's why LG designed its VR goggles to be light and fit over your face like a visor. "We're respectful of your hairstyle, of your effort," Lee said. (Unfortunately, CNET reviewers considered LG 360 VR a style no-no with terrible light leakage and a bad VR experience.)

Likewise, LG's separate 360 camera was designed to resemble a tube of lipstick, a familiar, relatively compact object (compared to the Samsung Gear 360 camera) that I could easily carry and drop into my pocket or purse.

Have you ever met a designer? I've met a few, and the best ones are philosophers at heart. For Lee, and for me too, the ultimate allure of photos that can help transport you to another place goes beyond design, a place where you see not only yourself, but past yourself.

"It's like time travel," Lee said. "[You're] bringing back time and space to the phone. When you experience something, your brain opens like Pandora's box."