Facebook’s parent company Meta is working on its metavers: a virtual world where people can work, play and relax. To immerse users in this, the company makes virtual reality glasses. With such glasses, they have to start looking at a virtual world the same way they do in the real world. But it will take years before the technology is ready, says Meta director Mark Zuckerberg in an online presentation to, among others, NU.nl.
With VR glasses, people completely shut themselves off from the outside world. A screen hangs in front of each eye, creating a 3D image. By turning his head, the wearer sees a virtual world around him. Using controllers or by registering hands, it is possible to operate the virtual world.
The glasses have evolved significantly in recent years, but even though the headset conveys the feeling of being immersed in another world, the technical limitations are still visible. For example, the resolution of the screens is not yet high enough to be razor sharp and the field of view on VR glasses is smaller than in reality.
“We still have a long way to go before we achieve visual realism,” Zuckerberg says. According to him, realistic images alone are not enough to make virtual reality a success because the human brain connects different visual signals to develop the sense of presence.
Technological constraints stand in the way of realism
Human eyes quickly adapt to see clearly at different distances. VR headsets have screens that hang at a fixed distance and do not always know exactly what the wearer is looking at. It sometimes feels unnatural, and even the smallest strain in the picture can give people the feeling of getting seasick.
“In addition, screens with ten times the brightness of current HD television are needed to approach the brightness of the physical world,” says Zuckerberg. There are some technical issues that still need to be resolved. “And then they still have to fit into little glasses that are comfortable to wear.”
Meta has more or less solved some of the challenges in several prototypes of VR glasses. But these are currently too bulky, too expensive or too fragile to market. For example, there is the Starburst project, with which a brightness of 10,000 nits can be achieved. By comparison, Meta’s current Oculus Quest hits 2,100 nits. But the prototype is so heavy that it has to be held with both hands.
Butterscotch is one of the other prototypes that has 2.5 times the resolution of Quest 2. This makes the image much sharper, but the device is still too large and unwieldy to carry.
VR glasses prototype Starburst must be worn with both hands.
The future of Metas VR is a kind of ski goggles
In this way, Meta works on different prototypes that try to solve different obstacles of the current VR separately from each other. Ultimately, the techniques need to be gathered in a pair of glasses.
Meta already has a concept for what it should look like. The company calls the project Mirror Lake. The device looks like ski goggles with a much flatter design than existing goggles. The glasses need a new technology to direct light to the eyes, allowing for the smaller housing. He would also have adjustable lenses to mimic how the human eye focuses at different distances.
So far, it remains the music of the future. “It will take another five to 10 years before the technology is ready for this type of glasses,” says Zuckerberg. The high-quality technology then first appears in professional, expensive glasses. So it’s a long-term project before the ultimate VR glasses find a big market, but Meta takes time for its metaverse. A top executive of the company said at the end of last year that it could take up to 15 years before the construction of the meta-verse is completely finished.