Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

There are too many technical problems and experience pain points to be solved.

Zuckerberg must be super hopeful that the Metaverse will come to fruition soon. Otherwise, he wouldn’t change the company’s name to “Meta”.

Perhaps out of this can’t-wait mentality, Meta’s Metaverse R&D lab, Meta Reality Labs, let him experience four prototype VR headsets that the lab is developing. Yesterday, Zuckerberg posted a video of the experience on his Facebook account.

That’s right, the key word is “prototype”, which is a product that doesn’t sell: bloated, industrial, wires flying all over the place, naked cooling fans, and some parts are even taped up – it’s full of cyberpunk Full.

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

According to Zuckerberg, these prototypes are used to research and solve their own problems/pain points, and have different optimization directions. “Our goal is to pack all of this technology into a single device that’s lighter and thinner than any VR headset on the market today,” he said. , within the next few years.

However, according to the understanding of Silicon Stars, some of these VR headset prototypes have not even reached the technical level of the products that competitors are already selling; not to mention that they want to integrate these technologies into one headset, and they are better than Meta. The Quest 2’s smaller size, at least in the current state of these prototypes, couldn’t be more difficult.

It can even be said that Zuckerberg wants to show us how powerful the future VR headset technology is this time, but after watching the video, I only feel how far the real VR/Metaverse is from us…

After the video was released, Meta’s stock continued to fall today…

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Close to the maximum clarity acceptable to the human eye

“First, we needed to achieve perfect retina resolution, which is 60 pixels per 1-degree angle,” Zuckerberg said.

In the VR world, resolution advancements are no longer marked by the traditional “a few times a few” approach. With displays so close to the human eye, “angular resolution” is the new norm.

Optical experts and display technology experts generally believe that 60 pixels (60ppd) per 1 degree angle, that is, a small square of 1° parallel and 1° perpendicular to the horizon, when there are a total of 60×60=3600 pixels, can be called it It is “retinal resolution”. Because if the resolution is higher than this, the human eye can no longer receive more information and will not feel more clearly, so this resolution is also called “eye-limiting resolution” (eye-limiting resolution).

To achieve retina resolution, Meta Reality Labs has developed a prototype called “Butterscotch” based on the Quest 2 headset that is already on sale:

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

According to Meta, Butterscotch’s resolution is about 55ppd, which is very close to the “retina resolution” level of 60 pixels per 1 degree angle.

Unfortunately, to achieve such a high density of resolution, this prototype can only sacrifice the viewing angle (field of view). Butterscotch’s viewing angle is only about 60° from the center of the human eye, about half that of the Quest 2, but still stronger than the 54° of Microsoft Hololens.

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

If you used to hate using VR headsets because the resolution was too low and you felt dizzy after a long time, Meta’s efforts at resolution should give you some confidence.

In direct comparison, Butterscotch’s display clarity is far superior to the earlier Oculus Rift and the current Quest 2:

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

In the VR headset space, Meta isn’t the only company that’s hitting retina resolutions. The VR-3 model from high-end headset brand Varjo has exceeded 70ppd, even slightly exceeding the industry-recognized retina resolution standard, and has a viewing angle of 115°, slightly larger than the Quest 2’s 110°. .

Clearly, Meta still has a long way to go.

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Varjo

Eye tracking and variable depth of field

Another point that made us feel uncomfortable when using VR headsets before was the focusing effect of the display.

When using a computer or watching TV, the screen distance from us is fixed, and the eyes can focus on the screen distance. However, when we try to observe distant or near objects in the 3D environment of the VR headset, the eyes naturally adjust the focus distance, which creates a visual discomfort.

The Half Dome, a second prototype under development by Meta Reality Labs, is trying to solve this problem.

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

Half Dome is a prototype VR headset with varifocal optical/digital fusion imaging technology. Through eye-tracking technology, the headset can track changes in the wearer’s eye lens with near real-time ultra-low latency and quickly change the virtual “focus” effect in the picture, as shown in the following figure:

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

It’s worth mentioning, though, that variable depth optics has been working on Facebook’s VR division for years, since the earliest Oculus acquisition. In 2020, Facebook said that the variable depth of field technology is “almost ready” [1].However, in 2022, 2 years later, we see the state of the still prototype…

I really don’t know when this technology will actually be ready.

optical distortion

Meta Reality Labs also hopes to solve the optical distortion problem currently prevalent in VR headsets. To put it simply, VR headsets have two common optical distortions. The first is located at the edge of the screen, similar to the effect of a fisheye lens; the second is screen movement distortion, that is, as the wearer’s head moves, During the movement of the screen, the projection deviation and the unsynchronized images of the two eyes may occur, resulting in the distortion of the screen.

Meta didn’t go into the technical details of this, but from a very short video, you can see that they have achieved very good results in solving the distortion in the process of moving the picture.

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

The superposition of the double-eye images has been perfectly maintained, and only a slight ghost will appear at the moment when the edge of the screen is switched;

Secondly, even if the head moves quickly, the screen projection changes will not cause slide-type keystone distortion, and it can be seen that there has been a very good progress in real-time distortion elimination.

HDR

Meta’s largest, heaviest, and coolest prototype in development is called the Starburst.

According to Zuckerberg, Starburst is the first known VR headset to support ultra-brightness and high dynamic range imaging (HDR).

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

However, it is not easy to do all this. Starburst basically relies on stacking hardware to achieve the current effect, including higher brightness light sources, graphics cards that support real-time calculation of HDR binocular VR content, etc.

Due to the high power of the entire system, the team members even directly installed two exposed cooling fans to cool the hardware equipment; even because the system was too heavy, it was impossible to wear it on the head in a conventional way, so only two cooling fans could be used. hold hands…

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

Talking about why HDR is needed, Zuckerberg pointed out that “the brightness in the natural environment can usually reach tens or even hundreds of times that of ordinary high-definition TVs and high-end displays. And the real colors are also more vivid than ordinary displays.” Therefore, in order to make the VR display effect closer to reality, HDR is an important technical direction that must be pursued.

The Starburst’s peak display brightness reaches an astonishing 20,000 nits, more than 10 times that of the MacBook Pro. As for the display effect of HDR content, Meta provides a very short video. We will not describe the effect. Seeing is believing:

Xiao Zha showed off four VR headsets that are not for sale, and I realized that the real Metaverse is still too far away from us

Image credit: Meta

Even Zuckerberg admitted, “This machine is very unrealistic, and we use it more as a test field for future HDR technology research and learning.”

HDR, resolving optical distortions, enabling variable depth of field, and dramatically increasing resolution—all these technologies combined, just happen to be closer to the real VR/Metaverse effect.

Zuckerberg said the plan for the future is to cram all of this technology into one headset as much as possible. More importantly, this product is lighter and thinner than all VR headsets on the market today.

He also revealed that in the future, the company’s plan for head-mounted display products is to make two product lines, one is affordable and affordable, and is the same as the Quest 2 series; Prosumer, likely in “the next few years”.

Anyway, judging from the status of several prototypes this time, we can make it clear that: at least from the perspective of display technology, if you want to make this product for professional consumers, and to achieve real virtual reality and In the Metaverse, there are still too many difficulties to overcome.

But Zuckerberg still has a lot of hope. He said: “The future of being able to reproduce scenes with perfect clarity in a VR environment is not far away from us now.”

For the time being, I can only give Xiao Zha a big “respect”, and I hope he can achieve his grand goal and give the stock market and analysts a resounding slap in the face.

References

[1] Display Systems Research at Facebook Reality Labs (Conference Presentation) https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/conference-proceedings-of-spie/11310/2566597/Display-Systems-Research-at-Facebook-Reality-Labs-Conference-Presentation/10.1117/12.2566597.full

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