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Michael Abrash of Oculus Talks About The Big Challenges Ahead of VR

As humans, much of what we see around is is actually something of a visual trick, a compromise between our eyes and our brain. Entertainment creators have long taken advantage of that fact to produce optical tricks, and even television itself is a product of ‘Persistence of Vision’, which is essentially a prolonged optical illusion. Michael Abrash, celebrity programmer and Chief Scientist at Oculus VR, has written at length about how human perception affects and challenges the development of virtual reality (VR).

Abrash’s blog post begins by laying out some of the ways which humans eyes and brains can be tricked into perceiving something different to what is actually there. Perhaps the most infamous example is the gold and white/blue and black dress photo that went viral in 2015. Abrash points out that since VR is, at its hear, a perceptual system, being able to successfully work with, or around, human perceptual limitations is necessary if VR is going to progress.

One of the key areas Abrash concentrates on is Focus. Human eyes are designed to rapidly adjust their focal distance, but modern headsets are mostly fixed at a single focal length, so if a VR user tries to focus on a virtual object that is too close, it can produce eyestrain. As Abrash himself says: “We run into the problem that VR headsets have fixed lenses focused at two meters, which has the effect of making everything within one meter blurry and uncomfortable to look at for extended periods—and one meter is everything within arm’s length.”

Oculus are working on a potential solution for this, where focal planes are flexible, able to adapt to human changes in focal length. Effectively tricking the brain into believing it is correctly focussing.

The blog post goes into other details regarding the need for accurate eye-tracking, and how variations in pupils and eye shape can cause issues for this. The full blog post can be read at the Oculus site here.

VRFocus will continue to bring you news on new innovations in VR technology.