Facebook’s Reality Labs has teased a working prototype of a VR ‘headset’ that shrinks the technology down into something akin to a pair of sunglasses. To make this possible, Facebook’s researchers have combined holographic optics and polarization-based optical folding which would replace the traditional refractive lens approach.
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Facebook seems intent on making its US$2.3 billion acquisition of Oculus back in 2014 pay dividends. The COVID-19 crisis saw spike in demand for its Oculus Rift S and Quest headsets that saw them being resold at insane prices for a while there. However, as good as these VR headsets are by today’s standards, Facebook has developed a new method for image projection that will make them look like the original brick-like mobile phones do to us today.
The new technology would replace the current method of image projection that relies on a refractive lens approach. Instead, Facebook’s working prototype looks like a regular pair of sunglasses, but it hides a new combination of holographic projection with polarization-based optical folding. Facebook’s approach shrinks the display thickness to less 0.35-inches (9 mm) thick. The company sees the technology enabling longer VR sessions and new use cases including productivity.
At this relatively early stage of development, the prototype is delivering images in monochrome. However, the field of view is said to be comparable to today’s headsets but will use laser illumination to produce a much wider color gamut. It also working to increase the resolution “to the limit of human vision.” While the prototype holds immense promise, it is likely we won’t see the technology shipping in a consumer product anytime soon, but it does herald an exciting future.
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Sanjiv Sathiah, 2020-06-30 (Update: 2020-06-30)