These are Meta's advances to create a VR helmet that offers visual realism

Virtual reality (VR) headsets are a critical part of the metaverse that Goal wants to build although they currently have limitations that prevent visual realism, a problem that the company intends to solve with new technologies focused on resolution, focus, brightness and contrast and distortion that allow it to pass the so-called ‘visual test of Turing’.

Meta’s great commitment to the future of communication and the digital economy lies in the metaverse, a virtual environment where users can experience presence, that is, the feeling of being truly present with other people in a virtual roomand not just in front of a screen, as is currently the case.

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The ‘hardware’ is positioned as the gateway to this metaverse, and the company has been working on a helmet specifically designed for this digital environment for some time, as the company’s executive director, Mark Zuckerberg, already announced last year. A device with the necessary technology to show realistic images similar to the physical world and that is light, compact and comfortable for the user to carry.

Zuckerberg’s idea of ​​a virtual reality viewer means overcoming the limitations that these teams currently encounter, as he shared in a round table held with the press, which was attended by Europa Press. This is because current headsets offer poor resolution, distort the image and cannot be used for long periods of time.

Meta’s proposal is the creation of a new helmet that combines a series of novel technologies with the that can offer an image as realistic as the one we see in the physical world. Obtaining it means having passed the so-called ‘visual Turing test’.

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To pass this test, the company has spent seven years working on various helmet technologies and prototypes from its Display Systems Research team in the Realidad research laboratories, or Reality Labs Research, which have focused in four dimensions: focus, resolution, distortion correction, and brightness and contrast.

APPROACH

The problem with focus is that the screens are very close to the users’ eyes, and the headsets use solid lenses at a fixed distance. Meta’s answer to this question is ‘varifocal’ technology, progressive focus, with pivoting lenseswhere he has been working since 2017 with the Half Dome helmet prototypes.

Since then, the technology has evolved to offer a 140 degree field of view (Half Dome1) and smaller and lighter optics (Half Dome2) for a more comfortable experience. Since 2019 the research team has taken a new perspective, with the introduction of the electronic progressive focus, which replaces the mechanical parts of the helmet with liquid crystal lenses.

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RESOLUTION

In the resolution dimension, the company works to improve visual quality, since VR headsets have wide fields of view and pixels have to be distributed over a larger area, which results in fewer pixels in a given area.

In this section, the director of research for Reality Labs, Michael Abrash, has expressed that not only are more pixels needed to improve the resolution, but the quality of those pixels must increase.

Starting with the Butterscotch helmet prototype, Meta researchers have worked to bring the resolution of these helmets closer to that of the human eye, and for this they have developed a hybrid lens that has allowed to raise the resolution, although in equipment of ‘hardware’ of great size and weight. Specifically, they claim to have achieved a VR resolution of 55 pixels per degree, 2.5 times more than the Quest 2 helmet.

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DISTORTION

Today’s virtual reality headsets produce a distortion effect on three-dimensional objects when the user moves their eye to see what is around them, which detracts from the experience.

To tackle it on a helmet with progressive focus, Meta researchers have developed a simulator to replicate distortions in it and use this information to design more appropriate lenses.

The solution designed is based on a reconstruction of 3D technology for televisions in combination with lens emulation software, which virtually replicates the distortions that the user sees in the helmet. This seeks to design new lenses and algorithms that correct distortion for later application in physical VR headsets.

BRIGHTNESS AND CONTRAST

The company has explained that high dynamic range (HDR) technology, that adjusts the lighting in the lightest and darkest areas to offer greater contrast, it is the one that offers greater consistency in the sensation of realism and depth of an image.

The best way of contrast is in nits, which indicates the amount of light that a diode (pixel) emits. In this sense, they point out that the ideal brightness peak has been identified at 10,000 nits, although in current virtual reality headsets the maximum that has been reached is 100 nits (Quest 2).

Meta researchers have developed the Starburst prototype, which reaches 20,000 nits. From the company they assure that it is one of the brightest HDR screens that have been built to dateand one of the few in 3D.

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