Virtual reality was once a holy grail in science fiction turned science. Tomes have been written about living full lives within a virtual realm tailored to our liking, and popular television series such as Black Mirror have looked at what that reality may be like, perhaps persisting even after death. Although Thorsten Wiedemann spent a full 48 hours in VR, it has been common perception that we are still a long way off from a truly convincing VR experience, even in the visual realm.
The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift both offer 1.2 megapixel resolution per eye, which, while beautiful, is far less than what we have the capability to perceive. Of course, going much beyond that, we have concerns about the volume and speed of data transmission. As resolution grows, so does the amount of data required to run the virtual landscape, and consumer hardware can only support these levels of needed rendering and computation up to a certain point.
Even Google’s work towards a 20 megapixel virtual reality setup has been described as practically “unusable” due to the 50-100GB per second of data that would be needed to run it.
But Varjo (“shadow” in Finnish) has a different idea, and says they will be offering a human-eye resolution VR system next year for less than $10,000.
Their headset, named “20/20” after the measure of human vision, uses a technique called foveated rendering which harnesses eye movement tracking in order to render whatever a user is immediately viewing at high resolution while rendering peripheral objects at a lower resolution. This technique cuts data and processing requirements substantially over trying to render everything in high resolution.
Using foveated rendering and a “bionic display,” Varjo claims to be able to reproduce 70 megapixel resolutions–nearly 60 times greater than the modern HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
In a quote from Digital Trends, Urho Konttori, CEO & founder of Varjo, explains that their “patented display innovation pushes VR technology 10 years ahead of the current state of the art, where people can experience unprecedented resolution of VR and AR content limited only by the perception of the human eye itself.”
Companies such as Olorama, FeelReal, and CamSoda are already bringing smells to virtual reality. Project Nourished is creating virtual reality food experiences. Plus, AxonVR’s HaptX suit can simulate bodily sensations from hot to cold to pressure that extends from a butterfly’s wings to a punch.
Combine these technologies with human-eye resolution visuals, and we may see fully-immersive VR that is hard to discern from reality itself far sooner than most anyone expected.
What is your most realistic virtual reality experience? As the technology progresses, can you see yourself spending significant amounts of time in VR? Let us know in the comments below!