In my career I have had the opportunity to use and develop software for Virtual Reality (VR) so I have some knowledge of it. VR is one of those technologies that had a hype phase about 20 years ago but died off because it was very hard to do well. Lately though it has been undergoing a bit of a revival because the technology might actually be up to the challenge.
In order to do acceptable VR you need the following:
- A fast computer capable of generating two views at the same time (one for each eye).
- A fast head tracking system so the computer can see what direction you are looking.
- A lightweight, bright, and high resolution Head Mounted Display (HMD).
- A wide field of view (at least 90 degrees).
There has never been a system that can do all of these at once but we can do #1 and #2 pretty easily today. The Occulus Rift VR HMD is a good attempt at kickstarting an industry but all HMDs have suffered from the need to use optics to focus the eyes on a screen. This optical glass is heavy, and causes distortions of the image. It also is hard to get a wide field of view.
So it is with great interest to read about a new company called Avegant which claims to have a HMD that is light and doesn’t use optics to project the view.
The startup’s prototype virtual retinal display (VRD) delivers insanely sharp definition and a realistic image even with low-resolution sources by projecting directly into each eye using an array of two million micromirrors. There’s no screen inside, though your brain interprets the signal as an 80-inch panel viewed from eight feet away. The effect isn’t entirely dissimilar to what you’ll find with other products, such as Vuzix’s Wrap glasses or Sony’s HMZ, though the quality — and the overall experience — blows everything else out of the water.
Well it sounds like they have the quality problem solved but I am not too sure about the field of view. Still, it sounds like very promising technology that could finally lead to real Virtual Reality.
The implications of this are huge for education. You think students are engrossed in games on their phones and video game systems? Wait until they can actually enter these virtual worlds. How will a teacher be able to compete with this alternate reality? On the plus side though, it will make virtual field trips and telepresence much more effective.
This deserves an “awesome”!
Here’s a video with more info.