New VR technology that doesn’t cause eye strain

Virtual reality is a topic I’ve touched on an increasing amount in the past year as the number of applications has mushroomed.  It seems perhaps that the time has finally come for both VR and AR.  One issue that remains to be overcome however is that of eye fatigue, which can make it hard to remain in the digital world for too long.

A recently published paper from researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign describes a new type of 3D display that the authors believe solves the problem of eye fatigue.

“We want to replace currently used AR and VR optical display modules with our 3D display to get rid of eye fatigue problems,” the authors say. “Our method could lead to a new generation of 3D displays that can be integrated into any type of AR glasses or VR headset.”

Easy on the eye

The display measures just 1×2 inches, and therefore increases the viewing comfort by providing better depth cues that provide a visual experience comparable to how we see in the real-world.

Existing VR and AR environments present 2D images such that our brain is cued to combine them into the 3D environment.  It’s a process that causes vergence-accommodation conflict, which can make it harder for us to fuse the images over time, and strains our eyes.

The new approach uses optical mapping to present actual 3D images to the user.  It works by dividing the digital display into subpanels thate ach create a 2D picture.  These subpanel images are then forged together to appear to the user as though each individual image is at a different depth.  The system also uses an algorithm to blend the images and ensure that the depth appears continuous.

The system is designed such thati t could work with current display technology, but the researchers believe it’s most effective on an organic light emitting diode (OLEDs) display due to the extremely high resolution available.

“People have tried methods similar to ours to create multiple plane depths, but instead of creating multiple depth images simultaneously, they changed the images very quickly,” the team say. “However, this approach comes with a trade-off in dynamic range, or level of contrast, because the duration each image is shown is very short.”

The next step is to further reduce the system’s size, weight and power consumption before hopefully finding commercial partners to help bring the technology to market.

“In the future, we want to replace the spatial light modulators with another optical component such as a volume holography grating,” the team explain. “In addition to being smaller, these gratings don’t actively consume power, which would make our device even more compact and increase its suitability for VR headsets or AR glasses.”