At Facebook’s F8 developer conference Oculus revealed a glimpse at an intriguing new headset prototype dubbed ‘Half Dome’. Including a 140 degree field of view, varifocal displays, and what appears to be eye-tracking, the prototype is a tantalizing peek at the company’s research and what may lay ahead of us—just don’t expect it everything we saw “anytime soon,” says Oculus co-founder and Head of Rift Nate Mitchell.
Besides the fact that Oculus is undoubtedly working on a second flagship PC VR headset, nothing is known about it thus far. And derailing the hypetrain somewhat, Mitchell took to Reddit to address comments reeling from the prospect of Half Dome’s technology making its way into a potential Rift 2.
“Seriously, a varifocal display?” writes Reddit user ‘DarthBuzzard’. “I honestly expected that to be CV3 and CV2 would have simulated depth of focus rather than full depth of focus. Looks like things really are moving faster than expected!”
In response, Mitchell had this to say:
“[Maria Fernandez Guajardo, Head of Product Management, Core Tech at Oculus] covered a bunch of areas of long term research for us. This is just a peek into some feature prototypes we’ve been working on. However, don’t expect to see all of these technologies in a product anytime soon.”
While this doesn’t entirely negate a prospective Rift 2 with varifocal displays, 140 degree field of view, and eye-tracking (or any combination of the three), being able to productize all of these these things into a single headset will likely take time to get right.
VR headsets are ideally robust devices built to withstand the daily abuses from their owners, and varifocal displays, which physically move to accommodate a wider range of focus, introduce a number of moving parts that are constantly moving in tandem with the user’s gaze. These parts undoubtedly also complicate manufacturing and increase the overall cost of the device too.
Eye-tracking is however something that is both physically robust, and probably much cheaper to make for Oculus considering last year’s acquisition of Eye Tribe, a Denmark-based eye-tracking startup which advertised “the world’s most affordable eye tracker” as far back as 2013.
As for the wider field of view: it’s still uncertain if the varifocal displays were a key technology in obtaining the 140 degree FOV, although Fernandez Guajardo stated at F8 that the company’s “continued innovation in lenses has allowed [Oculus] to pack all of this technology and still keep the Rift form-factor.” One of the images shown at F8 does show a much larger pair of supposed Fresnel lenses—so not a stark impossibility either.
At GDC last year, Head of Oculus PC VR Brendan Iribe stated that Rift will remain the company’s flagship VR headset for “at least the next two years.” Mincing Iribe’s statement somewhat, that puts a potential Rift 2 launching sometime in 2019 at its earliest.
We hope to see more at Oculus Connect 5 which should be sometime in Fall 2018.