Even though far from being a reality, virtual reality has always populated the imagination of science fiction authors, scientists with large amounts of money and fledgling Ceará gamers. We are still a long way from the Year of Virtual Reality, but we are making progress, and Facebook researchers have taken a big step.
There are several flavors of virtual reality in fiction; some use drugs that create imaginary scenarios. Others project the scenario directly onto the person’s brain. These are either completely impossible or are some 200 years in the future.
Other scenarios create a kind of Holodeck, an environment with projected images and holographic objects. In reality we have the impressive environment used in Mandalorian, in fiction we have 360 degree projections and objects created with force fields.
The most common is the virtual reality equipment that we have today, basically the same as 30 years ago: A viewfinder covering the eyes and gloves or controls for interaction. All of this equipment undergoes constant evolution, but no revolution. Compare this 1989 NASA equipment …
With a 2020 Oculus Quest.
Of course, technologically there is an ocean of difference, but in terms of ergonomics, progress has been minimal, and Virtual Reality will not become popular until it is practical. We already got rid of that bunch of sensors and infrared spots, but the “glasses” are still a mess. Outside of hardcore VR gamers and people using them professionally, no one wants to be seen wearing those abominations.
Street use, also discarded. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, none of this depends on resolution and speed, a cell phone already provides an adequate experience. For technology to become popular, such equipment needs to be inconspicuous.
The equipment created by Facebook Reality Labs is an important advance. Still, of course, it is far from something worthy of Tony Stark, it looks more like something Stevie Wonder would use, but the cat’s leap is to use holographic lenses.
Instead of a conventional lens, the new technology produces a much thinner lens, which refracts the photons of the liquid crystal LCD screen several times (redundant enough?) And with this the necessary distance to correctly converge the image in the user’s eye remains the same, but the physical distance between the screen and the lens is reduced.
The Facebook prototype ‘only works with green images, but they’ve already got images full color on bench equipment. In the same way, the prototype only contains screens and lenses, drivers hardware, control chips, power, etc. are in a separate device. It’s normal, prototypes should be easy to change and tweak, that’s all. Remember the prototype of the first iPhone:
Is this Facebook model the first really popular Virtual Reality glasses? Hardly, but after 31 years without the format advancing almost nothing, it is good to see something happening.