By: Nick Gambino
We reported on Facebook’s launch of the new Oculus Go that does away with cumbersome wires and the need for a smartphone or high-powered PC. On day 2 of F8, Facebook shared a prototype for an even more impressive VR headset called the Oculus Half Dome.
The Half Dome concentrates on improving two key tech points that will allow for a smoother and more realistic VR experience.
First is the expansion of the user’s field of view (FOV). In everyday life when using your eye balls to see the world, you have an FOV somewhere around 200 degrees. This allows for decent peripheral vision. VR tech hasn’t been able to create this real-world sense of sight, offering a FOV that tops out around 100 degrees. Thus, we wind up with tunnel vision.
The Half Dome significantly increases FOV to about 140 degrees. While not necessarily the same as what you would experience in the real world, this is a big jump and will be noticeable by those who’ve used VR thus far.
Secondly, Oculus has been working on focus. If you strap on any VR headset, you’ll notice there is no variable focus. In order for any object or sign to be clearly viewed or read, they stick it out at about 2 meters. That distance is the standard for anything to be clearly viewed in virtual reality. That is a problem if you want to immerse someone in an illusion and have them believe it’s real.
“To work around this problem, the VR industry has been placing objects at a distance of about 2 meters, but this is limiting and not realistic,” Maria Fernandez Guajardo, Head of Core Tech at Oculus said at the F8 presentation. “Great VR has to work with objects that are close to you too. If you’re given a note, you should be able to read it.”
The Half Dome creates this variable focus by physically moving screens inside the set to appropriately accommodate a different depth of field. Oculus describes it as a similar feature to the auto-focus inside of a camera. In that way, whenever you pull a note in to read it’ll come into focus.
For now, this promising new headset is only a prototype and there’s no word on when we’ll see it available for purchase. Personally, if it does what they say it does, I think it’ll be a giant leap forward in the world of VR.