The major players in the virtual reality headset market have based their gear on stereoscopic technology – splitting images into two, one for each eye, to simulate 3D visuals – but a new joint initiative by Stanford University and GPU maker NVIDIA, under the banner Magic Leap, is hoping to push beyond stereoscopic alignments with its new “light field” VR display.
The headset offers users a more realistic experience by simulating depth-of-field, allowing the eye to switch focus between foreground and background, rather than tricking it in-image. It achieves this by layering two screens on top of one another, both being translucent with a backlight behind them, allowing the rear screen to be visible through the front screen.
“The way we perceive the natural world is much more complex than stereoscopic,” said Gordon Wetzstein, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford. ”Our eyes can focus at different distances. Even one eye can see in 3D. It does that by focusing the eye.”
The image shown to each eye, constructed of a combination of 25 separate images through its LCD screens, is akin to a hologram. The prototype kit, currently connected to a high-end PC, is powered by an NVIDIA Maxwell GPU, while the program it runs is constructed using NVIDIA’s CUDA programming language. In development since 2010, the current headset marks the third generation of the light field technology. “This is as good as we can make it from off-the-shelf components purchased on eBay and 3D-printed housing,” Wetzstein said.
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