Facebook claimed it has created the world’s thinnest augmented reality headset.
Although it remains a concept for now, the system removes the cumbersome box-like headgear usually synonymous with augmented reality setups and then presents the look of a large pair of sun-lasses with lenses only under the thickness of.3 inches.
Facebook, which published a test study, claims it has created “a new class of near-eye displays” that integrates holographic components and uses a refractive technique that requires adequate light compression to dramatically minimize the screen scale.
The system utilizes a method dubbed “polarization-based optical folding” that enables the use of thinner lenses and a compact area between the lens and mirror instead of dense refractive eyeglass lenses that must be positioned well away from the display surface.
The headset will generate brightly colored, three-dimensional images that are far superior to the graphics generated with LEDs popular in today’s devices by introducing holography. The project actually only creates pictures in shades of black, however in the production phase, Facebook researchers foresee maximum color to be obtained later.
They elaborated on the prototype’s inner workings in the study prepared by Andrew Maimone and Junren Wang of Facebook Truth Laboratories.
“You may be familiar with holographic images seen at a science museum or on your credit card, which appear to be three-dimensional with realistic depth in or out of the page,” they said. “Like these holographic images, our holographic optics are a recording of the interaction of laser light with objects, but in this case the object is a lens rather than a 3-D scene.”
They added: “The result is a dramatic reduction in thickness and weight: The holographic optic bends light like a lens but looks like a thin, transparent sticker.”
The research is set to be publicly discussed at the international SIGGRAPH conference on computer graphics and advances in virtual reality, to be conducted July 19-23. Interestingly enough, this year’s meeting, thanks to COVID-19, would be interactive one online.
Facebook recently consolidated its virtual reality efforts and focused on standalone headsets such as the Oculus Quest. Six years ago CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought the Oculus VR startup for $2 billion.
At the time, he stated: “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”
The latest prototype suggests that the company recognizes that although virtual reality is incorporated into the rapidly expanding frontiers of social media, comfort will play a crucial role. Given their remarkable features, goggles such as the Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens could not achieve mainstream popularity owing in large part to their bulkiness and discomfort for consumers who usually wear them for prolonged periods of time.
Facebook hopes to develop models weighing around one third of an ounce, compared to the 20-ounce Oculus and 1 1/4-pound HoloLens.
Google is speeding up its Virtual Reality efforts. It acquired North, a firm specialized in virtual reality lenses, earlier this week. This continues funding the production of Google Glass, a wearable eyeglass device. And Apple is working on a virtual reality headset and augmented reality glasses scheduled for release in 2022 at some point.