Oculus today at F8 overviewed some of the latest VR technology that they’d been working on internally. Among the projects mentioned is the ‘Half Dome’ prototype, a Rift-like headset with a 140 degree field of view, varifocal displays, and what appears to be eye-tracking.

Maria Fernandez Guajardo, Head of Product Management, Core Tech at Oculus, revealed the Half Dome prototype after saying that her job is to help take the research that’s happening within the company and turn it into practical building blocks for future projects. She also spoke to the company’s hand-tracking research, which the company claims is “far more accurate than any method before […].”

A Rift-like field of view compared to the Half Dome prototype. | Image courtesy Facebook

Guajardo said that the Half Dome prototype manages to pack a 140 degree field of view and varifocal displays into a Rift-like form factor. The wide field of view appears to be thanks to new Fresnel lenses, and the appearance of eye-tracking technology on the headset may also play a role.

Two prototype headsets, apparently with eye-tracking. The left appears to be using Rift-like lenses while the right uses new lenses which are said to have a 140 degree field of view. | Image courtesy Facebook

While eye-tracking may benefit the field of view improvements, it’s almost certainly utilized primarily in the Half Dome prototype’s varifocal displays, which physically move back and forth to dynamically shift the focus of the optical system.

Image courtesy Facebook

Doing so allows for sharp imagery even with nearfield objects, a problem that Guajardo says plagues the consumer headsets of today. She said that much attention has been paid to making Half Dome’s display actuation system silent and otherwise imperceptible to the user.

During the presentation photos of other unspecified prototype headsets also made an appearance:

In the last year, Oculus has detailed a range of research projects relating to varifocal technology.

Correction (5/2/18): An earlier version of this article stated that Guajardo was part of Facebook. While Oculus is owned by Facebook, Guajardo is actually part of Oculus. This has been corrected in the article above. Hat tip to Reddit user Heaney555 who pointed this out.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • VRfun

    I think there is a lot of great technology out there but after hearing about this type of constant movement by an actuator I am weary. It’s the introduction of many types of failures. Motion/Eye sensor failure or misread may cause them to shift a different way which could induce sickness or a misalignment of your eyes to the screen. Another failure could be the actuating motor itself. The speed and the constant motion could cause an early failure. What about eye tracking not properly tracking or eyes batting to quickly for it.

    I’d love to see what this brings to the VR field but as simple as it sounds in theory it is a complex system.

    Still can’t believe that was pretty much all of F8. They were touting all this big news months ago for VR. The Oculus keynote was a tad of a let down. They had about 5 min related to PC Vr which they said they were standing behind and really going to talk about. This is unannounced stuff they are “working” on. Which essentially means they are just messing around with prototypes and it’ll be another 1yr or 2 at least before we see a Rift CV2. People are still buying that thing even though the resolution needs a bump like ASAP.

    • Rogue Transfer

      I am *wary. (Weary means tired, rather than cautious.)

      Completely agree, esp. about the many types of failures of such a system – including a major issue with the wire connectors to the panels. Soldered or socketed ribbons constantly moving rapidly to keep up with eye focus is going to cause problems with it.

      It’ll be intriguing to see if they keep to this or drop it and how well moving the whole panels(instead of just the focused area) and thus needing to apply fake blurring of the background will impact the experience. It could be distracting if the blurring is overdone and I suspect different people will have different sensitivity to such image manipulation in VR.

      • dogtato

        I’d like to see them drop it and see if the moving parts still work

        • Sofian

          I’d like to see you drop your CV1 and see if it still works.

          • Mike “Sh1neSp4rk” Lamble

            I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my Vive fall off the back of my couch onto the floor and it’s running like a champ. I can’t speak to the build quality of the Rift but I imagine it must be somewhere close.

          • Firestorm185

            I tend to keep my rift in places where it won’t easily fall on the floor, but it has accidentally been dropped a few times and it’s still kickin! ^^

          • Get Schwifty!

            Maybe it’s a thing for some folks like my step-daughter who somehow can drop her cell phone at least once a week and destroy the screen… never broken a phone, and probably never will. Others just seem more heavy-handed….

          • dogtato

            my vive for sure still works after being dropped at least a dozen times

          • Holger Fischer

            Yeah, skip the tech – make it droppable!

        • Get Schwifty!

          Let’s drop your cell phone and see if it still works…. I mean, that is NOT a serious criteria…

          • dogtato

            yes it is. I still have a working cell phone despite dropping it a few times, therefore it’s a good product

      • brandon9271

        As long as QA does their job and stress tests the hell out of it I’m not worried. Oculus has had a better track record than HTC at least.

      • Lou Wallace

        I saw some military tech where lasers were beamed into your eyes using fiber optic wave guides, and contact lenses with varifocal nanostructures, much more advanced than this

        • Bryan Ischo

          I’m going to guess that you have to take those contacts off to see in the real world though, so that’s kind of a big downside … having to put contacts in just for VR and take them out afterwards.

          Of course I often put my contacts on just to play VR, so … no huge difference. Except that I can still see when I take the VR headset off …

        • GunnyNinja

          they pay $500 for toilet seats. We can’t afford the military tech…

        • Get Schwifty!

          Yeah…. maybe this in like 15-20 years as consumer grade tech. Maybe one day my car will fly with stealth technology as well, but not in the foreseeable economically viable future…. however, I DO think that projecting directly into the eye is undoubtedly the final way it will be done.

      • Jack H

        It may not be necessary to have any electronic parts other than the actuators attached to the moving varifocal lens rig. Even the eye tracking could be mounted on front of the lenses on a separate fixed aperture.

    • Sofian

      I don’t see anything complex here and I don’t think Oculus is going to ship a product that is not 99% reliable. Either it works or they will move to something else.

    • EricTbone

      Vive Lighthouse are rotating at 90 rpm, day in day out, for years now. Moving parts are more likely to fail than totally solid state parts, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean they should be necessarily avoided. In this case, they solve a very difficult problem (vergence-accommodation conflict).

      If eye tracking doesn’t keep up, then there are much bigger implications. Eye tracking is going to be used for foveated rendering, so future headsets will rely on 100% reliable eye tracking. Tons of money is being poured into this area. Eye tracking will be more reliable than headset tracking.

      “the resolution needs a bump like ASAP”

      We need reliable eye tracking first, or we’ll need $5000 machines to drive the display. Abrash and Carmack have both mentioned this problem in various talks: display density is going to increase far more rapidly than GPU power. We’ll have retina resolution VR displays a decade or more before GPU that can actually drive them. Foveated rendering is essential.

      • realtrisk

        90 RPM? Are you sure about that? :b

        • Firestorm185

          I just realized he said rpm too. xD I agree with the rest of his statement tho.

          • wotever99ninynine

            the lenses in cd players move back and forth. the motor spins the disc at varying speeds. these barely ever fail and have to be very precise to work. they are not moving as much weight as a small screen but i believe they will be reliable. and they need to add an option to disable the variable focus in case it induces motion sickness in a small percentage or doesnt play well with certain games or your device breaks and you still want to use it as normal vr. at worst you just pull it apart and unplug the motors and move screens back to default position..

            i very much think this tech is going to be awesome. and is the needed next step.

        • EricTbone

          No, I googled, copied and pasted. The point is it spins. :)

      • Lou Wallace

        “new Fresnel lenses” (sigh) who else used the valve prototype years ago with those wonderful optics….

        • F1ForHelp

          You do realize that both Vive and the Oculus currently use Fresnel lenses, right?

          • GunnyNinja

            and one them is doing a better job at it than the other.

        • wotever99ninynine

          yeah, the lenses on my cheap google cardboard headset had no fresnel rings etc and the image was super clear and sharp. and less blurry at edges, no rgb abberation or whatever. no light blur or reflections or whatever. i seriously still dont get why fresnel lenses are used. i have a lenovo explorer and its great. not as sharp a picture and has all the above issues but slightly less sde (my phone is 1080p so that makes sense) and great 6dof tracking with motion controllers and slightly wider fov, so i would definitely take that over my google cardboard device overall. but the lenses.. why are they worse? i still dont understand. there is obviously a reason but i dont know what it is.

      • Jack H

        It should be noted that the Vive Lighthouse spins at a constant rate whereas these actuators would move forward and back at a varying rate. These actuators may fail much sooner, presuming similar construction quality.

        It may not always solve vergence-accommodation conflict if the eyes’ focus and the varifocal lenses enter a feedback loop of adjustment.

    • Rob B

      For what its worth, focus speed is much slower than eye movement speed, in our own eyes.

    • twattermaster

      They said the same thing in 1900 about car’s shock absorbers. What’s the point of introducing so many moving part if we can still drive on stiff frames. Who would fix those complicated things…

      I have a camera with moving sensor stabiliser and my lens has also moving parts.. no probs for years.

      • Lou Wallace

        I was in Asia recently, maglev trains are fast and smooth, the USAisnt keeping up, y?

        • Smokey_the_Bear

          Cause we be broke.

          • MosBen

            We’re not broke, just Republican, in government at least.

          • Ethan Wayne

            As if we wouldn’t be even more broke with Democrats. Funny how the economy now is so much better than it was for the last eight years.

          • Meow Smith

            Ha I remember this style of thinking under Bush it’s going to end up the same way, you gullible Americans never learn.

          • Ethan Wayne

            And yet you would give your left kidney for a chance to come to America like the rest of the filthy third world.

          • Engineer_92

            You’re kidding right? Trump doesn’t get to take credit for the TREND that was already in place before he took office.

          • Ethan Wayne

            TREND? What trend? You mean record high welfare usage? 8 years of GDP growth of less than 2%? 100m Americans not in the work force? massive trade deficits? Thanks but no thanks.

          • Engineer_92

            We had this little thing called the recesssion when Obama took office. You remember that?? Unemployment was down to about 4.6 percent when he left. Trump does not deserve credit for the upward trend of the economy. Take a seat

          • MosBen

            We weren’t broke then, werewnot broke now, nor would we be broke if Democrats were in charge. To the original poster’s point, we could have mag lev trains. We don’t because it’s not a priority for our government, especially when under Republican rule.

          • Bryan Ischo

            In some sense; yes. But life here is pretty good, and I’ve been to China and lots of other parts of the world and can make the comparison.

          • Josh Hupp

            Don’t we print money?

        • Get Schwifty!

          Cause we do things on maximum profitability in the short term currently, while developing countries want to create a forward infrastructure the way the US did back in the 40’s and 50’s. Give it time, we’ll do it when the time is right.

          • Grant Kerr

            When will the time be right for gluttonous countries and companies? They will always want to maximize profit over innovation or future investments and infrastructure. This unfortunately won’t change and shortcuts will always be taken.

      • VRfun

        Shock absorbers are gas filled with springs typically.. Also, a moving sensor stabilizer is different than this. This is relying on a sensor to perceive eye movement and then process it to physically follow. I didn’t say it wouldn’t work but it would introduce a lot of technical points of failures and significant costs most likely as well.

        • twattermaster

          There is no other way probably and since they progress with the varifocal design that means it must be pretty ground breaking stuff. (significantly outweighing design problems).

          And as to failures. Well long live the 2 years warranty in EU. ;)

        • Nate Vander Plas

          Also keep in mind that, with the speed of VR headset technology changes, your headset won’t be relevant for more than 2-3 years, so it only has to last that long. Think about an auto-focus lens on any point and shoot camera. They don’t fail very often.
          I do agree, though, that this is the wrong method for displaying VR. You really need light fields. Even with eye tracking, it is still guessing at where your focus is. I can think of a lot of scenarios – fine branches in the foreground, transparent objects, etc – where a single eye position can have multiple plausible focal depths. Look at what Avegant is doing (and, dare I say, Magic Leap?). They’ve got the right idea.

    • If you looked at the automation involved in other every day products you would never travel. If they can make this work then it should work well. Simple as that.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Beyond criticism of the potential issues, what other technological means is there to meet the requirements? I mean, there are concerns surely, but what other way can you suggest to do it? This is a bit like the problem of a car… in the end, it’s going to be moving parts in there, like it or not…

  • Fundamentalist Daleks

    Sounds like a really delicate mechanism that would break easily and require a lot of service. Cute way of getting around the problem, tho! Be interesting to see if they can improve on it and make it sturdier.

    • Sofian

      Right this is the idea, tens of thousands of customers shipping back their CV2.

  • bud

    I wounder what is actually required for full impression reality, how would you deliver complete saturation of the visual FOV, budget not an issue… you can spend 10billion dollars on it… how would you go about doing that?

  • Justos

    Im glad the wait this time around will be a lot less painful.

    Ive got cv1 right here, Go is in the mail. I can wait.

    These improvements look absolutely fantastic. GJ Oculus!

    • VRfun

      Yeah, i have a Go as well. If you understand and accept the limitations to primarily multimedia (Netflix/hulu/pics/ etc) and “experiences” then it’s an awesome device with great screen resolution/quality. SDE is pretty small and it’s smooth with the dedicated processor. Battery life sucks but come to find out it has a 18650 2600mAh cell battery that is being looked into to switch out and upgrade with a 3500mAh 18650 cell.

  • dk

    stupid Google I/O 2018 ….common May 8th ….can’t wait ….even if it’s just a prototype

  • Konchu

    This is exciting and is a more conservative FOV increase compared to the PiMax but Oculus has a decent hardware track record so we know it will be solid if released.

    • Mark Evans

      I can be satisfied with the pace of progress so Long as when the final product is released it has a decent shelf life (5+ years). This’ll gives us time to get acquainted with current tech while saving up for their successors.
      Also, with the rapid pace of technological advancement, not to mention new discoveries every now and then, methinks MATERIALS used on new products will, themselves, also be cutting edge… and capable of standing up to the use/abuse they were intended to accept, hence the reason they’d be chosen over other materials. My 2-cents, respectfully.
      In short, I’m maintaining a positive outlook for what new products are in the pipeline for release in the not-so-distant future.

  • Luke

    I wish more wide FOV for CV2. I point at 200°!

    • Tom VR

      I agree, at some point the FOV war is over once you reach human eye levels, then we can focus on other pillars.

    • Jinral

      Agreed. But for where we are right now, I don’t mind well-planted baby steps. Bring on the 140-degree FOV. It may be friendlier on ur pocket right now.

      • Tyrus Gail

        When I’m hearing about ‘baby steps’ from VR believers I’m laughing so hard:) With those steps we will be dead, before good VR will appear on the market.
        Dream about VR is dead for now (5 years cycle of new product, sligtly better than the previous one). This is not development. This is discomfiture.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    Nice, 140 degrees would be awesome…with a good resolution increase. But I doubt we’ll here anything new until October (Oculus Connect).

  • doug

    So, facebook is going to track gazes now. Is the next logical step pupil dilation, or EEG?

    • Tom VR

      EEG would be an awesome idea for locomotion. I wonder if moving your avatar with your mind induces or reduces motion sickness.

      • doug

        A downside to profitability with focusing on EEG locomotion is that Facebook already gets locomotion data. EEG emotion tracking could enhance user satisfaction and keep the data flowing in, or switching from VR to AR could keep users wearing a mostly see-through headset on most of the day. Maybe pupil response could be cheaply added to a version 2.

        Today, though, we’ll be left with just this gaze data with which to build psychological profiles. A properly designed virtual environment would maximize the value of the gaze data, so we should expect some in-house titles from Facebook.

    • crim3

      Probably both. This way they’ll now when you are having an orgasm, when you are excited, when you are bored, when you are lying… Milked like cows for our precious data… and I’ll still buy because I freaking need this thing on my face to put up with life pretending that I fly military aircrafts.

      “By clicking on Next you are agreeing with our ToS blah blah blah” – “I’m not agreeing with anything. I’m just clicking the button that I know that won’t abort the installation process, you bastard!”

  • I always said 140 to 160 is the sweet spot for FOV due to research by the MOD for their own simulators. Any more than that and artifacts start to occur and users are more fatigued.

    This sounds great and I will be watching closely.

  • Kev

    Oculus is so slow on product development everyone will have multiple iterations out before we see this for sale.

  • sfmike

    A 140 degree field of view would be GREAT but if it comes with increased god rays then it’s not much an improvement. So tired of the cataract simulator that comes with using Fresnel lens. The GearVR is still superior with it’s old fashioned lens. Would pay more for new lens technology.

  • GunnyNinja

    HTC, it doesn’t always pay to be first. It pays to be better.

  • oompah

    still boxy

    • brubble

      Yeah, what a POS. Why bother? ;) What shape would you like?

  • Tyrus Gail

    From one side – first good VR news since 3 years. From the other hand – on this stage, product will (maybe) be available in pre-order in 2020.
    Well… VR are developed at an incredibly slow pace. At this rate, we will not have a real VR for next two generations.
    And the reason is simple – no mass demand -> no pressure to develop.

    • Engineer_92

      Good thing the rate of technological advancement moves at more of an exponential pace

  • To me it seemed just a lot of tease to get hype. I’m amazed by what they shown, but I know that these headset are not just around the corner.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Based on the dev kits and Santa Cruz timelines, my money is on a 2020 release for CV2.

      • gothicvillas

        Yes and dont forget PS5 in 2019 with PSVR 2nd gen possibly in 2020. Clearly they will have to beat Xbox X in specs and with these numbers new VR system could be very interesting.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Everything is a “tease”, hell Vive “knuckles” controllers have been one hell of a tease wouldn’t you say?

  • Pre Seznik

    I only care about FOV and wireless (for PC VR), so this is at least something (and I know wireless is possible already as well). So good news as far as my interests go.

    • Xron

      On higher res, hmz…. we don’t have speedy enough ports yet.

  • awilko

    If they add the varifocal display I won’t be buying one. Most people over 40 can’t focus clearly on anything closer than a couple of feet away, and the fixed focal distance of current headsets solves that nicely, at least it does for me. With varifocal display, I’d need to wear reading glasses under the headset – but only when looking at things up close. I sure hope they allow users to set minimum focal distance in software or disable it completely. Or better yet, release a model without the varifocal mechanism that is cheaper and less likely to fail.

  • grindathotte .

    This is actually tackling a major problem with VR. Apart from motion sickness, there is another aspect that can cause headaches and eye strain and that is the relationship between eye convergence and accommodation. Normally, when we look at a close object we will re-focus our eyes accordingly. This does not happen in VR. Reflexively our eyes may try to re-focus but they actually still need to remain focussed at a fixed distance (the exact distance will depend on the VR lenses). This is unnatural and may prevent some particularly sensitive people from using VR. By tracking both eyes, this system could determine the convergence (at what distance we are looking) and change the lens power accordingly so that our eyes focus correctly at the perceived distance. For those not affected, it could be seen as a waste of the additional cost, but who knows the long term effects of messing with our eyes?

  • Get Schwifty!

    I will say I love the aesthetic design of that headset…. whatever potential outcomes, I hope they model on this in whatever CV2 is composed of (probably equivalent to Pro Vive I bet).