Absolutely fascinating paper here from Microsoft Research describing the design of a holographic display technology that can achieve 80 degrees field of view or more. I remember sitting in a bar in London circa 1980 with a colleague discussing how to produce custom wavefronts for CGI applications. We went down a black hole fast but this kind of tech is exactly what we would have needed.
I was intrigued by the Vrvana VR + stereo camera pass-through headset. This is a practical version of something that I have been thinking about for a while. HoloLens does a fantastic job of AR/MR but it does have a limited field of view, something that may be inevitable with the waveguide type design. The other limitation is that it can only overlay on reality, not selectively replace it (at least not in all lighting conditions).
Enhanced Reality (ER), by using stereo cameras whose feeds are displayed as in a conventional VR headset can solve the field of view problem and allow all aspects of the field to be enhanced, replaced or overlaid as required. Take the case of using the headset for driving a car (although people will probably not be doing that much longer). For a start, the car would no longer need a dashboard or any instrumentation – everything would be virtual, including big touchscreen displays. Looking out of the windscreen, the image seen could be augmented by data from radar, IR cameras or anything else that enhances the experience. Objects of interest could be enhanced in brightness perhaps. It could incorporate Google Translate style street sign translation and replacement. Obviously any other useful heads-up data could be displayed, such as navigation, speed, temperature etc.
Complex airplane cockpits could potentially be a thing of the past also. Most of the cockpit consists of devices that give information to the pilots or are simple switches and levers. All of these could be virtual. Maybe you keep a joystick and a couple of rudder pedals but that would be it – it’d just be two chairs in a room :-). Meanwhile, the view out of the windscreen could be enhanced in the same way as described earlier.
I am sure there are many applications where the ability to enhance, modify and replace any part of the field of view would be of value. An important aspect of a true ER headset is that even very bright features in the field can be replaced, something that is difficult to do with AR headsets.
This is brilliant stuff. And apparently Apple owns the technology now. Check out the sequence at 2:30 – very nice.
Moving away from traditional stereoscopic 3D for VR headsets (such as the Oculus VR devices) is all the rage now. Microsoft’s HoloLens and Magic Leap‘s upcoming headset are part of this new wave but details of the underlying technology are virtually non-existent. However, a group from Stanford are presenting a paper on their light field stereoscope at SIGGRAPH2015 in Los Angeles next month that describes how the light field technology works. Worth reading if you want to know more about this emerging tech.
Incidentally, I first went to SIGGRAPH in Dallas in 1981. Quite a bit has changed since then!
Time to get serious on the VR front and there’s nothing better for the price than the Oculus DK2 VR headset.