The Reality Labs department of the Meta subsidiary Facebook has presented new prototypes for lightweight, hyper-realistic virtual reality headsets. Codenamed Butterscotch, Starburst, Holocake 2 and Mirror Lake, the designs could result in a sleek, brightly lit headset that supports finer detail than the current Quest 2 display, writes US tech portal The Verge, although it’s still a long way off are ready for series production.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Reality Labs Chief Scientist Michael Abrash presented their work in a virtual media session. Reality Labs, formed from the 2014 acquisition of Oculus’ virtual reality business, is a division of Meta that makes virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) hardware and software, including virtual reality headsets such as Quest and Metaverse platforms like Horizon Worlds.
“I think we’re in the middle of a big step towards realism right now,” Zuckerberg was quoted as saying by The Verge. “I don’t think it will be that long before we can create scenes with basically perfect realism.” The goal, according to Zuckerberg, is to create a device that passes the “visual Turing test,” which is the point at which virtual reality becomes virtually indistinguishable from the real world.
Four essentials for the perfect VR headset
As Zuckerberg and Abrash explained, developing the perfect VR headset requires perfecting four fundamental concepts. First, high resolution must be achieved to enable 20/20 VR vision. In addition, the headsets require variable depth of field and eye tracking so one can easily focus on near and far objects; in addition, the optical distortions of the current lenses must be corrected. Finally, Meta needs to introduce HDR (high dynamic range) in headsets to achieve more realistic brightness, shadows and color depth.
“Displays that reach the full capacity of human vision are going to unlock some really important things,” Zuckerberg said, according to blog network Engadget. “The first is a realistic sense of presence, and that’s feeling like you’re with someone or in a place, as if you’re physically there.”
Project Cambria before release
Zuckerberg reiterated plans to launch a high-end headset, codenamed Project Cambria, later this year after announcing it last year. First demos show how Meta’s VR glasses Cambria integrates the real world into AR apps. Cambria supports both VR and mixed reality, thanks to high-resolution cameras that can transmit video to an internal screen. It will also feature eye tracking, an important feature for future meta headsets.
According to Zuckerberg, Meta is planning two lines of VR headsets: one that, like today’s Quest 2, will be budget and consumer-focused, and one that will feature the company’s latest technology and is aimed at a “prosumer or professional market”.
Four new prototypes
While Zuckerberg acknowledged that the perfect headset is still a long way off, he presented prototypes that showed the progress Metas Reality Labs has made so far.
Butterscotch is an attempt to create a headset display that is close to retina quality. The design is “not nearly shippable” and required halving the Meta Quest 2’s 110-degree field of view. However, it offers 2.5 times the resolution of the Quest 2 at 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye, allowing users read 20/20 visual acuity on an eye chart.
The Starburst HDR prototype looks even wilder: it’s a bundle of wires, fans and other electronics that can produce a brightness of up to 20,000 cd/m². That’s a huge leap over the Quest 2’s 100 nits and way ahead of even the super-bright mini-LED displays.
Holocake 2 goes in the opposite direction, exploring Meta’s ability to make VR headsets thinner and lighter. It’s the successor to a 2020 design based on holographic optics, a light diffraction technique in which a nearly flat panel replaces a thick refractive lens. The result could be as thin as a pair of sunglasses, but Meta is still working on developing a standalone light source that would power her. “We still have a lot of development work to do to create a consumer-friendly laser that meets our needs,” said Zuckerberg. “Honestly, the question of a suitable laser source is still open today.”
Meta also revealed a prototype called Mirror Lake, which is basically just a dream model and was never built. The design looks more like ski goggles than Meta’s chunky Quest hardware, and it would combine Holocake 2’s thin optics, Starburst’s HDR capabilities, and Butterscotch’s resolution. “It shows what a complete next-generation display system could look like,” says Abrash.
#Meta #introduces #latest #headset #prototypes