Facebook Built a VR Headset the Size of a Pair of Large Sunglasses

A team researchers at Facebook have created a virtual reality headset that’s not much larger than a chunky pair of sunglasses, Ars Technica reports.

The futuristic shades use a specially designed holographic film to miniaturize the lens. Conventional VR displays tend to be bulky, as the refractive lenses inside of them need a couple of inches to focus the display for its wearer’s eyes.

The result is a pair of glasses that are at most only nine millimeters thick, according to the researchers, and weigh only 17.8 grams. Images from the glasses’ green-and-black display are, frankly, extremely cyberpunk.

The glasses can provide an approximately 90-degree horizontal field of view (human vision is just shy of 180 degrees), according to testing detailed in a new paper published by Facebook Research.

Laser Beams

The design also did away with the traditional LCD panels used in conventional VR headsets and uses lasers instead to create an image. That means pixel counting isn’t really an option, as Ars points out.

It’s still an early prototype with plenty of limitations. Since light rays from the backlight “fan out significantly before they are focused by the holographic beamsplitter surface,” large regions of the display “do not contribute to the display’s [field of view],” the researchers write in the paper.

The glasses are also still not capable of producing a full-color image and exhibit “ghosting” around the edges of the field of view caused by optical surfaces reflecting light.

The team already has a plan to reduce weight even further. By switching to plastic substrates, the researchers expect to bring the total weight to just 6.6 grams, about the weight of a pair of large aviator-style sunglasses.

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