Facebook Nails Down Retinal Resolution VR Headset Patent

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When it comes to VR display resolution, the war is certainly starting to gain intensity. Although  current mobile display technology has achieved incredibly pixel densities, they still fall rather short when places just an inch or two from your eyeballs. So everyone seems to be chasing the holy grail – “retinal” VR displays.

In the same way that Apple has “retina” displays, these purported displays are meant to present no visible pixel grid. They have image detail so fine that the human eye can’t discern individual picture elements. That sounds fine in principle, but the problem isn’t an easy one to solve.

Simply adding more pixels wouldn’t be the end of it. We’ve seen a few interesting approaches to the problem. The Varjo Bionic is one of the most prominent prototypes we know of. Varjo have designed an innovative dual-screen solution with eye tracking, A smaller retinal display presents images to the fovea, with a traditional screen providing the rest of the image. We’ll soon know how well this works if or when the Bionic goes into production. However, they may have a fight on their hands, since VR juggernaut Facebook has posted a patent for their own take on this technology.

A Bright Idea

Varjo might not be pleased to know that the patent sound suspiciously like their solution. The patent describes sounds a lot like the Bionic. It describes a two-screen per eye solution, with the smaller high-resolution screen presenting a seamless image to the sharp part of human vision.

The details of how the device operates is fascinating. The smaller display is known as the “inset” display and combined with tiny mirrors and eye-tracking ensures your area of focus is rendered in exquisite detail. In the graphics technology world variable resolution rendering within the same scene has become quite the performance saver and seems like a perfect fit for this sort of technology.

While Facebook and Varjo (who also have a patent) seem to have invented the same thing, it sees that the Varjo inset display doesn’t adjust to the movement of the eye in the way that the Facebook solution does.

With patents awarded to both companies it’s going to be interesting how things turn once we actually get to see both headsets side-by-side. What’s definitely clear is that the days of blurry VR worlds may be gone sooner than we think.

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