The company's goal is to create a device in which virtual reality is almost indistinguishable from the real world.
In mid-June, during a virtual roundtable, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the Reality Labs team including its chief scientist Michael Abrash demonstrated several experimental models of VR headsets – each was intended to show one specific feature specialists implemented that is not available in most modern devices.
The event was focused on designs, and, according to Mark Zuckerberg, Meta intended to show these prototypes to demonstrate the company's goal to develop a VR headset in which virtual reality will be almost indistinguishable from the real world. "I don’t think it’s going to be that long until we can create scenes with basically perfect fidelity," Zuckerberg said.
As part of the presentation, the executive also confirmed that the launch of the premium VR headset codenamed "Project Cambria" is still scheduled for 2022. Cambria is set to be a high-end VR and AR hybrid headset, the key feature of which will be eye tracking.
Zuckerberg said that following the launch of Cambria, Meta is planning two lines of VR headsets: the cheap and consumer-focused one and one aimed at a "prosumer or professional-grade" market. The latter one is expected to incorporate the newest technologies Reality Labs is working on. However, those two prototypes were not demonstrated at the presentation.
Among the designs that were demonstrated at the virtual roundtable was Butterscotch. The screen resolution of this headset is 2.5 times higher than that of Quest 2 – 1832x1920 pixels per eye, allowing users to read the 20/20 vision line on an eye chart. Although to achieve this resolution, the specialists had to reduce users' field of view almost in half compared to Quest 2’s 110-degree field of view. This resolution is a record for devices in the Quest line, but some manufacturers of premium virtual reality headsets, including Varjo, have already released devices with more advanced screens.
Another prototype, Starburst, is testing one more striking update. This heavy and bulky VR headset, which must be held by the handles to use it, provides a high dynamic range lighting with brightness up to 20,000 nits. Mark Zuckerberg noted that Meta is using this prototype as a "testbed for further research and studies" which will help the company to approach visual realism.
Holocake 2, one more prototype, on the opposite, is aimed to explore options for a significantly thinner and lighter design. In the second generation of the Holocake prototype, engineers use holographic optics and a special light-bending technique that replaces a thick refractive lens in a VR headset. Mark Zuckerberg emphasized that this is only a prototype and the company still needs to do a lot of research to make such a device safe, inexpensive to manufacture, and efficient to operate.
The presentation also discussed Half Dome, a series of prototypes that can shift focal planes depending on where users are looking. Internal Meta research results show that these headsets can build a more convincing illusion of depth in VR.
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