This story is part ofCNET is exploring the next stage in Internet development.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a new technology, including improved resolution, that could appear in his company’s virtual reality headsets in the future.
Why it matters
Headsets are a key part of Meta’s vision for the metaverse, the evolution of the Internet that is more immersive than today’s version.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds a bulky virtual reality headset called Butterscotch. It is a prototype used only for research. But it’s part of the puzzle Meta is trying to solve to make her plans for the metaspace come true.
The image resolution in Butterscotch is about two and a half times better than in Quest 2, the VR headset Meta is sold to consumers and is essential for making virtual worlds look more realistic. At a video conference, Zuckerberg said the resolution is good enough for people to see objects clearly at a distance of 20 feet.
Creating more realistic VR images, Zuckerberg said, will help people feel like they are there physically with another person, even if they are not in the same room. However, a more realistic sense of presence will require more than just improving the resolution of CoR headsets, he said.
“Being able to express oneself in the most impressive and realistic way possible is a very powerful thing,” he said. “Right now we are in the middle of a big step towards realism.”
Meta has big plans with metaversion, virtual spaces for work, play and socialization. But the company, formerly known as Facebook, has a long and daunting list of tasks that it must tick off before it can achieve that goal. Headsets need to track movement properly and be more comfortable if Meta wants more people to buy these devices.
Meta did not say how many headsets were sold, but she does not make money from her business in the metaverse and does not expect it for a long time. Metaverse Reality Labs lost $ 2.96 billion to Meta in the first three months of this year, Meta said in a earnings report. The company has long relied on what comes after the mobile Internet, and pinned its future to the metaspace. Zuckerberg has been trying to arouse people’s interest in VR years after the company bought VR headphone manufacturer Oculus in more than $ 2 billion in 2014.
Zuckerberg’s ambitious vision of metaversion sounds like a sci-fi cut. He wants the people who put on his headphones to feel like they are in the physical presence of a loved one or co-worker. According to him, people may not even have to buy TVs in the future.
“If you have a good mixed reality headset or augmented reality glasses, then the screen or television on your wall can only be a hologram,” he said.
That vision is a long way off. Although Meta has improved its VR headsets, using them will take you to cartoon virtual spaces that look more like video games than the real world. The company tried to clear its list of projects – wearable devices and glasses for AR consumers. And it still has to deal with harassment and privacy in virtual worlds, problems that Meta has struggled with on its social networks.and postponed the release of AR glasses – to reduce costs. He is still planning to release his wrist
However, improving the displays in VR headsets may get people to try out more virtual spaces.
Mixed reality glasses
During the video conference, employees Zuckerberg and Meta presented an illustration of Mirror Lake, one of the company’s most ambitious projects. The headset resembles a pair of ski goggles and connects the physical and digital worlds, a technique known as mixed reality.
Mixed reality glasses such as Mirror Lake are also in their early stages. Mirror Lake is just a concept and Meta hasn’t built these glasses yet, so she doesn’t know if their idea works.
It could be a step towards AR sunglasses-like headsets that overlay digital information on real-world scenes. Meta wants to launch these AR products eventually, but there is still plenty of hardware that can be worn anywhere away from home.
Meta hopes that Mirror Lake will include a retinal resolution display with HDR, eye tracking, a multi-eye focus method, prescription lenses, and holographic lenses that use lasers to create 3D visuals.
The headset could eventually include displays on the outside that show the wearer’s eyes and facial expressions when wearing glasses, a research idea that Meta has previously introduced and that Apple is reportedly working on.
New visual technology in a range of experimental headsets
Meta also demonstrated Holocake 2, its thinnest and lightest VR headset capable of playing PC VR games. A prototype could help the company build smaller VR headsets in the future. And reducing the weight of the headset will allow people to be in the virtual worlds for longer.
The device is reminiscent of Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 design and uses holographic lenses that simulate the optics of a conventional lens, but are flatter than the curved lenses used in VR devices such as Quest 2. Most VR headsets have thick lenses, which is why the front of the device it looks so hard, Zuckerberg said. Instead of sending light through a thick lens, Holocake 2 sends light through a hologram lens. The meta also reduced the distance between the eye and the VR display to reduce the volume of the headset.
However, Holocake 2 requires lasers to make its holographic lens optics work, and finding consumer-ready lasers that would work in headsets is still difficult. The use of holographic optics can reduce the bulky design of the VR headset, so Meta can add other technologies such as multiple cameras, eye tracking and lens type that could make VR more comfortable.
To improve VR, he uses the Meta test, which evaluates whether what is displayed in a VR headset can be distinguished from the real world, said Michael Abrash, head of research at Meta Reality Labs. The company calls this the visual Turing test, which is a reference to the English mathematician Alan Turing, who developed another test in the 1950s to see if a computer could think like a human.
No VR technology has passed the visual Turing test, Abrash said. While VR creates a sense of presence, people know that what they are looking at is virtual and not real.
The meta outlined four obstacles to creating better displays: resolution, focus, distortion, and high dynamic range, which are used to improve the brightness and contrast of the image.
One problem is that VR headphones have a significantly smaller range of colors, brightness and contrast than TVs, laptops and cell phones, Abrash said.
Zuckerberg, who was holding a prototype VR headset called Starburst, noted that the device contained a bright lamp. He called Starburst “wildly impractical,” but said researchers were using a heavy headset to improve future devices.
Meta has also developed another prototype called Half Dome, which features a varifocal lens that can help people’s eyes focus better in VR, making nearby objects look sharper. People who used this type of lens experienced less fatigue and blurred vision. They also made it easier to identify smaller objects, read text in VR, and respond faster to the environment.
Even after years of development, Half Dome is not ready for consumers, as Meta strives to ensure that eye tracking and other parts of the device work properly. The technology needed to perform the varifocal function is still difficult to get into a consumer headset.
“As difficult as it is to create the first version of something, it can often be even harder to get it into a shipping product,” Zuckerberg said, adding that “optimistic” consumer units “will come soon.”
Later this year, Meta is expected to release a new, more expensive VR headset called Project Cambria, which will be the company’s first VR headset with eye tracking. Then it is not clear when or whether any of these next-generation display technologies will get into any headset. Remarkably, Zuckerberg and Abrash admit that current VR displays still do not match the quality of 2D displays on a TV or smartphone.
If they want the CoR to be more than new, this is a problem they will have to solve.