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The Chinese company TCL announced two tiny new LCD displays featuring impressive resolutions and striking pixel density per inch. If the displays are equal to their description these LCD panels will enable smaller and higher-resolution standalone VR headsets.

The first is a 2.1-inch LCD panel. Incidentally, the same size as HTC Vive FLOW, currently acting as the smallest display size on the market. However, where the FLOW delivers a resolution of 1600×1600, the new display prototype from TCL features a 2280×2280 resolution with a 120 Hz refresh rate.

Even more impressive, TCL showcased this first display in a standalone VR HMD: illustrating that such a small-sized LCD panel could enable powerful standalone virtual reality headsets to be created.

The second display that TCL teased as a prototype is only 1.77 inches, making it the smallest display engine for a VR headset on the market. This display has a resolution of 2160×2160, meaning it is lower than the other display, however, the loss of resolution compared to the reduction in size makes it very attractive.

TCL plans to make a big splash in the virtual reality industry with its upcoming LCD displays. Both TCL displays have impressive resolution densities and sizes, enabling crystal clear VR HMDs to be developed for a lower price than if OLED display engines are employed.All in all, with such high resolutions and pixel densities, cramped into such small form factors, TCL may power the next generation of stand-alone virtual reality headsets.

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size of vr lcd panel quotation

Standalone – devices that have all necessary components to provide virtual reality experiences integrated into the headset. Mainstream standalone VR platforms include:

Oculus Mobile SDK, developed by Oculus VR for its own standalone headsets and the Samsung Gear VR. (The SDK has been deprecated in favor of OpenXR, released in July 2021.)

Tethered – headsets that act as a display device to another device, like a PC or a video game console, to provide a virtual reality experience. Mainstream tethered VR platforms include:

SteamVR, part of the Steam service by Valve. The SteamVR platform uses the OpenVR SDK to support headsets from multiple manufacturers, including HTC, Windows Mixed Reality headset manufacturers, and Valve themselves. A list of supported video games can be found here.

The following tables compare general and technical information for a selection of popular retail head-mounted displays. See the individual display"s articles for further information. Please note that the following table may be missing some information.

size of vr lcd panel quotation

Virtual reality company Varjo, known for its unusual dual-resolution displays, has a new generation of virtual and augmented reality headsets. It’s promising even higher resolution, a wider field of view, and AR with advanced depth mapping.

Varjo’s PC-tethered VR-3 and XR-3 both have some of the sharpest screens you’ll find in VR and AR. The headsets use two panels for each eye: a small 1920 x 1920 display in the center of your vision, and a 2880 x 2720 panel for the rest of the screen. That produces an extremely clear image when you’re looking straight ahead and a more standard (albeit still high) VR resolution for your peripheral vision. Earlier Varjo devices used the same strategy with lower-resolution panels; the VR-1 and VR-2 from 2019, for instance, had a 1920 x 1080 inner panel and a 1440 x 1600 display.

The original Varjo screen (which it calls a “bionic display”) had a relatively narrow, boxy field of view, but the VR-3 and XR-3 have expanded that to offer a 115-degree horizontal FOV. That’s higher than the fairly expansive Valve Index and substantially bigger than lower-end consumer headsets. (These headsets typically have closer to 110 degrees of diagonal FOV, which translates into 100 degrees or less horizontal.)

The XR-3 and VR-3 use the same screen, and both feature hand and eye tracking, as well as the same 90Hz refresh rate. But the XR-3 also includes cameras and LIDAR sensors that turn it into an AR headset by combining virtual objects with a passthrough video feed. That makes the XR-3 somewhat heavier than the VR-3, at 594 grams compared to 558 grams, plus the weight of a headband that’s supposed to evenly and comfortably distribute that weight. (The recent Oculus Quest 2, a totally self-contained device, weighs 503 grams altogether.)

Varjo’s passthrough AR approach produces a much bulkier product than AR glasses like the Microsoft HoloLens, which project light through a pair of transparent glasses onto the real world. But it also creates much more solid-looking virtual objects, similar to the AR images you’d find on phones and tablets. LIDAR — which Apple incorporated into its 2020 iPad Pro — helps the headset more accurately map the outside world. You might still get some obvious “tells,” like virtual objects’ lighting not matching that of a real room. But better mapping means that physical objects can realistically occlude virtual ones, for instance.

Varjo still isn’t pitching its headsets to consumers. The XR-3 costs $5,495 and requires a one-year $1,495 Varjo software support subscription. The VR-3 costs $3,195 and requires a similar $795 subscription. But that’s still a major cut from the $9,995 XR-1 and the $4,995 VR-2. The goal is a headset that more businesses and other organizations can afford. The higher resolution, meanwhile, could help with specific use cases. The VR-3 and XR-3’s crisper peripheral vision means that pilots-in-training can glance around at a virtual cockpit and get a clear image, for instance — mimicking how they’d act while flying a real plane. Varjo also promises better color accuracy with the XR-3 cameras, so doctors could get a better look at something like a rash while holding telemedicine sessions.

The VR-1, VR-2, and XR-1 were announced and released within months of each other, and the VR-3 and XR-3 are being released roughly a year later. Varjo doesn’t expect to keep up this tight hardware release cycle. With the screen resolution boost, higher field of view, and other features in place, it’s going to focus on scaling up deliveries and improving performance via software tweaks.

size of vr lcd panel quotation

Metaverse-style immersion would seem to require Brelyon Ultra Reality monitor projects panoramic and cinema-scale virtual images with added depth. As you lean in to peer inside, you"ll see an image that appears to float 5 feet in the distance with a 101-degree field of view.

The monitor I tried is a prototype: It had a 4K LG LCD screen with a 24x9 aspect ratio and a 60-hertz refresh rate. Brelyon has a partnership with LG to bring 5K OLED screens to future models, as well as a refresh rate of 144 hertz aimed toward gaming.

"We engineer the wavefront of the light to give you a sense of depth. Unlike conventional autostereoscopic displays that sample the light field in angle to give shallow stereoscopic (or left-eye, right-eye) depth cue, we sample the light field in the wavefront domain to provide deep monocular or single-eye depth," wrote Heshmet in an email.

He went on to note: "These monocular depth layers require much more accurate crafting of light and are engineered to pan across multiple horopters. Because of this phenomenon, the brainfills in the gaps and gets a 3D sensation."

That means, according to Heshmet, that "although technically the content is 2D and no re-rendering is needed, different parts of the image are set to be at slightly different monocular depths, which gives that pleasant sense of immersion -- that feeling of looking through a window."

Ahead of the demo, I asked if I could bring my personal computer to try some video editing or plug in a Nintendo Switch and play Mario Kart, but unfortunately the company was unable to accommodate my tech. Instead, I tried a couple of preset demos: a video with movie clips, video game recordings and scenic views.

Brelyon"s first batch of monitors will be geared toward enterprise users and come out later this year. Those enterprise units might ship by the fourth quarter of 2022. Initially, there will be two models: the one I tried at 60 hertz and the other at 144 hertz, costing somewhere between $5,000 to $7,500.

size of vr lcd panel quotation

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, has been spending billions of dollars a quarter on the metaverse, which has moved very quickly from science fiction to reality in the eyes of big tech leaders like Zuckerberg. And now Zuckerberg is revealing some of the progress the company is making in the realm of high-end displays for virtual reality experiences.

At a press event, he revealed a high-end prototype called Half Dome 3. He also showed off headsets dubbed Butterscotch, Starburst, Holocake 2, and Mirror Lake to show just how deadly serious Meta is about delivering the metaverse to us — no matter what the cost.

While others scoff at Zuckerberg’s attempt to do the impossible, given the tradeoffs among research vectors such as high-quality VR, costs, battery life, and weight — Zuckerberg is shrugging off such challenges in the name of delivering the next generation of computing technology. And Meta is showing off this technology now, perhaps to prove that Zuckerberg isn’t a madman for spending so much on the metaverse. Pieces of this will be in Project Cambria, a high-end professional and consumer headset which debuts later this year, but other pieces are likely to be in headsets that come in the future.

A lot of this is admittedly pretty far off, Zuckerberg said. As for all this cool technology, he said, “So we’re working on it, we really want to get it into one of the upcoming headsets. I’m confident that we will at some point, but I’m not going to kind of pre-announce anything today.”

Today’s VR headsets deliver good 3D visual experiences, but the experience still differs in many ways from what we see in the real world, Zuckerberg said in a press briefing. To fulfill the promise of the metaverse that Zuckerberg shared last fall, Meta wants to build an unprecedented type of VR display system — a lightweight display that is so advanced, it can deliver visual experiences that are every bit as vivid and detailed as the physical world.

“Making 3D displays that are as vivid and realistic as the physical world is going to require solving some fundamental challenges,” Zuckerberg said. “There are things about how we physically perceive things, how our brains and our eyes process visual signals and how our brains interpret them to construct a model of the world. Some of the stuff gets pretty deep.”

Zuckerberg said this matters because displays that match the full capacity of human vision can create a realistic sense of presence, or the feeling that an animated experience is immersive enough to make you feel like you are physically there.

“You all can probably imagine what that would be like if someone in your family who lives far away, or someone who you’re collaborating with on a project or, or even an artist that you like would feel like if you’re right there physically together. And that’s really the sense of presence that I’m talking about,” Zuckerberg said.

“We’re in the middle of a big step forward towards realism. I don’t think it’s going to be that long until we can create scenes with basically perfect fidelity,” Zuckerberg said. “Only instead of just looking at a scene, you’re going to be able to feel like you’re in it, experiencing things that you’d otherwise not get a chance to experience. That feeling, the richness of his experience, the type of expression and the type of culture around that. That’s one of the reasons why realism matters too. Current VR systems can only give you a sense that you’re in another place. It’s hard to really describe with words. You know how profound that is. You need to experience it for yourself and I imagine a lot of you have, but we still have a long way to go to get to this level of visual realism.”

He added, “You need realistic motion tracking with low latency so that when you turn your head, everything feels positionally correct. To power all those pixels, you need to be able to build a new graphics pipeline that can get the best performance out of CPUs and GPUs, that are limited by what we can fit on a headset.”

Battery life will also limit the size of a device that will work on your head, as you can’t have heavy batteries or have the batteries generate so much heat that they get too hot and uncomfortable on your face.

The device also has to be comfortable enough for you to wear it on your face for a long time. If any one of these vectors falls short, it degrades the feeling of immersion. That’s why we don’t have it in working products in the market today. And it’s probably why rivals like Apple, Sony, and Microsoft don’t have similar high-end display products in the market today. On top of these challenges are the tech that has to do with software, silicon, sensors, and art to make it all seamless.

Zuckerberg and Mike Abrash, the chief scientist at Meta’s Reality Labs division, want the display to pass the “visual Turing test,” where animated VR experiences will pass for the real thing. That’s the holy grail of VR display research, Abrash said.

It’s named after Alan Turing, the mathematician who led a team of cryptanalysts who broke the Germans’ notorious Enigma code, helping the British turn the tide of World War II. I just happened to watch the excellent 2014 film The Imitation Game, a Netflix movie about the heroic and tragic Turing. The father of modern computing, Turing created the Turing Test in 1950 to determine how long it would take a human to figure out they were talking to a computer before figuring it out.

“What’s important here is the human experience rather than technical measurements. And it’s a test that no VR technology can pass today,” Abrash said in the press briefing. “VR already created this presence of being in virtual places in a genuinely convincing way. It’s not yet at the level where anyone would wonder whether what they’re looking at is real or virtual.”

One of the challenges is resolution. But other issues present challenges for 3D displays, with names like vergence, accommodation conflict, chromatic aberration, ocular parallax, and more, Abrash said.

“And before we even get to those, there’s the challenge that AR/VR displays have been compact, lightweight headsets” that run for a long time on battery power, Abrash said. “So right off the bat, this is very difficult. Now, one of the unique challenges of VR is that the lenses used in current VR displays often distort the virtual image. And that reduces realism unless the distortion is fully corrected in software.”

Fixing that is complex because the distortion varies as the eye moves to work in different directions, Abrash said. And while it’s not part of realism, headsets can be hard to use for extended periods of time. The distortion adds to that problem, as well as the weight of the headsets, as they can add to discomfort and fatigue, he added.

Abrash said the problem with resolution is the VR headsets have a much wider field of view than even the widest monitor. So whatever pixels are available are just spread across a much larger area than for a 2D display. And that results in lower resolution for a given number of pixels, he said.

“We estimate that getting to 20/20 vision across the full human field of view would take more than 8K resolution,” Zuckerberg said. “Because of some of the quirks of human vision, you don’t actually need all those pixels all the time because our eyes don’t actually perceive things in high resolution across the entire field of view. But this is still way beyond what any display panel currently available will put out.”

On top of that, the quality of those pixels has to increase. Today’s VR headsets have substantially lower color range, brightness and contrast than laptops, TVs and mobile phones. So VR can’t yet reach that level of fine detail and accurate representation that we’ve become accustomed to with our 2D displays, Zuckerberg said.

To pass this visual Turing test, the Display Systems Research team at Reality Labs Research is building a new stack of technology that it hopes will advance the science of the metaverse.

This includes “varifocal” technology that ensures the focus is correct and enables clear and comfortable vision within arm’s length for extended periods of time. The goal is to create resolution that approaches or exceeds 20/20 human vision.

It will also have high dynamic range (HDR) technology that expands the range of color, brightness, and contrast you can experience in VR. And it will have distortion correction to help address optical aberrations, like warping and color fringes, introduced by viewing optics.

Designed to demonstrate the experience of retinal resolution in VR, which is the gold standard for any product with a screen. Products like TVs and mobile phones have long surpassed the 60 pixel per degree

“It has a high enough resolution that you can read the 20/20 vision line on an eye chart in VR. And we basically we modified a bunch of parts to this,” Zuckerberg said. “This isn’t a consumer product, but this is but this is working. And it’s it’s pretty, pretty amazing to check out.”

VR lags behind because the immersive field of view spreads available pixels out over a larger area, thereby lowering the resolution. This limits perceived realism and the ability to present fine text, which is

“Butterscotch is the latest and the most advanced of our retinal resolution prototypes. And it creates the experience of near retinal resolution in VR at 55 pixels per degree, about 2.5 times the resolution of the Meta Quest 2,” Abrash said. “The Butterscotch team shrank the field of view to about half the Quest 2 and then developed a new hybrid lens that would fully resolve that higher resolution. And as you can see, and as Mark noted, that resulting prototype is nowhere near shippable. I mean, it’s not only bulky, it’s heavy. But it does a great job of showing how much of a difference higher resolution makes for the VR experience.”

“And we expect display panel technology is going to keep improving. And in the next few years, we think that there’s a good shot of getting there,” Zuckerberg said. “But the truth is that even if we had a retinal resolution display panels right now, the rest of the staff wouldn’t be able to deliver truly realistic visuals. And that goes to some of the other challenges that are just as important here. The second major challenge that we have to solve is depth of focus.”

This became clear in 2015, when the Oculus Rift was debuting. At that time, Meta had also come up with its Touch controllers, which let you have a sense of using your hands in VR.

Human eyes can adapt to the problem of focusing on our fingers no matter where they are. Human eyes have lenses that can change shape. But current VR optics use solid lenses that don’t move or change shape. Their focus is fixed. If the focus is set around five or six feet in front of a person, then we can see a lot of things. But that doesn’t work when you have to shift to viewing your fingers.

“Our eyes are pretty remarkable. And that they can, they can pick up all kinds of subtle cues when it comes to depth and location,” said Zuckerberg. “And when the distance between you and an object doesn’t match the focusing distance, it can throw you off, and it feels weird and your eyes try to focus but you can’t quite get it right. And that can lead to blurring and be tiring.”

That means you need a retinal resolution display that also supports depth of focus to hit that 60 pixels per degree at all distances, from near to far in focus. So this is another example of how building 3D headsets is so different from existing 2D displays and quite a bit more challenging, Zuckerberg said.

To address this, the lab came up with a way to change the focal depth to match where you’re looking by moving the lenses around dynamically, kind of like how autofocus works on on cameras, Zuckerberg said. And this is known as varifocal technology.

So in 2017, the team built a prototype version of rift that had mechanical varifocal displays that could deliver proper depth of focus that used eye tracking to tell what you were looking at real time distortion correction to compensate for the magnification, moving the lenses on in the blur. So that way, only the things that you were looking at, were in focus just like the physical world, Zuckerberg said.

The team used its feedback on the preference for varifocal lenses and it focused on getting the size and weigh down in a series of prototypes, dubbed Half Dome.

expanded the field of view to 140 degrees. For Half Dome 2 (second from right), they focused on ergonomics and comfort by making the headset’s optics smaller, reducing the weight by 200 grams.

mechanical parts with liquid crystal lenses, further reducing the headset’s size and weight. The new Half Dome 3 prototype headset is lighter and thinner than anything that currently exists.

These used fully electronic varifocal headsets based on liquid crystal lenses. Even with all the progress Meta has made, a bunch more work is left to do to get the performance of the varifocal hardware to be production ready, while also ensuring that eye tracking is reliable enough to make this work. The focus feature needs to work all the time, and that’s a high bar, given the natural barriers between people and our physiology. It isn’t easy to get this into a product, but Zuckerberg said he is optimistic it will happen soon.

The problem with studying distortion is that it takes a very long time; fabricating the lenses needed to study the problem can take weeks or months, and that’s just the beginning of the long process.

To address this, the team built a rapid prototyping solution that repurposed 3D TV technology and combined it with new lens emulation software to create a VR distortion simulator.

The simulator uses virtual optics to accurately replicate the distortions that would be seen in a headset and displays them in VR-like viewing conditions. This allows the team to study novel optical designs and

Motivated by the problem of VR lens distortion, and specifically varifocal, this system is now a general-purpose tool used by DSR to design lenses before constructing them.

“The problem with studying distortion is that it takes a really long time,” Abrash said. “Just fabricating the lenses needed to study the problem can take weeks or months. And that’s only the beginning of the long process of actually building a functional display system.”

“It’s how the system knows what to focus on, how to correct optical distortions, and what parts of the image should devote more resources to rendering in full detail or higher resolution,” Zuckerberg said.

“That is when the lights are bright, colors pop, and you see that shadows are darker and feel more realistic. And that’s when scenes really feel alive,” Zuckerberg said. “But the vividness of screens that we have now, compared to what the eye is capable of seeing, and what is in the physical world, is off by an order of magnitude or more.”

The key metric for HDR is nits, or how bright the display is. Research has shown that the preferred number for peak brightness on a TV is 10,000 nits. The TV industry has made progress and introducing HDR displays that move in that direction going from a few 100 nits to a peak of a few thousand today. But in VR, the Quest 2 can do about 100. And close to getting beyond that with a form factor that is wearable is a big challenge, Zuckerberg said.

most consistently linked to an increased sense of realism and depth. HDR is a feature that enables both bright and dark imagery within the same images.

The Starburst prototype is bulky, heavy and tethered. People hold it up like binoculars. But the result produces a full range of brightness typically seen in indoor or nighttime environments. Starburst reaches 20,000 nits, being one of the brightest HDR displays yet built, and one of the few 3D ones — an important step to establishing user preferences for depicting realistic brightness in VR.

The Holocake 2 is the thin and light. Building on the original holographic optics prototype, which looked like a pair of sunglasses but lacked key mechanical and electrical components and had significantly lower optical performance, Holocake 2 is a fully functional, PC-tethered headset capable of running any existing PC VR title.

To achieve the ultra-compact form factor, the Holocake 2 team needed to significantly shrink the size of the optics while making the most efficient use of space. The solution was two fold: first, use polarization based optical folding (or pancake optics) to reduce the space between the display panel and the lens; secondly, reduce the thickness of the lens itself by replacing a conventional curved lens with a thin, flat holographic lens.

The creation of the holographic lens was a novel approach to reducing form factor that represented a notable step forward for VR display systems. This is our first attempt at a fully functional headset that leverages holographic optics, and we believe that further miniaturization of the headset is possible.

“It’s the thinnest and lightest VR headset that we’ve ever built. And it works if it can take normally run any existing PC VR, title or app. In most VR headsets, the lenses are thick. And they have to be positioned a few inches from the display so it can properly focus and direct light into the eye,” Zuckerberg said. “This is what gives a lot of headsets that that kind of front-heavy look public to introduce these two technologies to get around this.”

The first solution is that, sending light through a lens, Meta sends it through a hologram of a lens. Holograms are basically just recordings of what happens when light hits something. And they’re just like a hologram is much flatter than the thing itself, Zuckerberg said. Holographic optics are much lighter than the lenses that they model. But they affect the incoming light in the same way.

The second new technology is polarized reflection to reduce the effective distance between the display and the eye. So instead of going from the paddle through a lens, and then into the eye, light is polarized, so it can bounce back and forth between the reflective surfaces multiple times. And that means it can travel the same total distance, but in a much thinner and more compact package, Zuckerberg said.

“So the result is this thinner and lighter device, which actually works today and you can use,” he said. But as with all of these technologies, there are trade-offs between the different things that are different paths, or there tend to not be a lot of the technologies that are available today. The reason why we need to do a lot of research is because they don’t solve all the problems.”

Holocake requires specialized lasers rather than the LEDs that existing VR products use. And while lasers aren’t super exotic nowadays, they’re not really found in a lot of consumer products at the performance, size, and price we need, Abrash said.

“So we’ll need to do a lot of engineering to achieve a consumer viable laser that meets our specs, that is safe, low cost and efficient and that can fit in a slim VR headset,” Abrash said. “Honestly, as of today, the jury is still out on a suitable laser source. But if that does prove tractable, there will be a clear path to sunglasses-like VR display. What you’re holding is actually what we could build.”

needed to pass the visual Turing test into a lightweight, compact, power-efficient form factor — and Mirror Lake is one of several potential pathways to that goal.

Today’s VR headsets deliver incredible 3D visual experiences, but the experience still differs in many ways from what we see in the real world. They have a lower resolution than what’s offered by laptops, TVs and phones; the lenses distort the wearer’s view; and they cannot be used for extended periods of time. To get there, Meta said we need to build an unprecedented type of VR display system — a lightweight display that is so advanced it can deliver what our eyes need to function naturally so they perceive we are looking at the real world in VR. This is known as the “visual Turing Test” and passing it is considered the holy grail of display research.

“The goal of all this work is to help us identify which technical paths are going to allow us to make meaningful enough improvements that we can start approaching a visual realism if we can make enough progress on resolution,” Zuckerberg said. “If we can build proper systems for focal depth, if we can reduce optical distortion and dramatically increase the vividness and in the high dynamic range, then we will have a real shot at creating displays that can do justice and increase the vividness that we experienced in the beauty and complexity of physical environments.”

The journey started in 2015 for the research team. Douglas Lanman, director of Display Systems Research at Meta, said in the press event that the team is doing its research in a holistic manner.

“We explore how optics, displays, graphics, eye tracking, and all the other systems can work in concert to deliver better visual experiences,” Lanman said. “Foremost, we look at how every system competes, competes for the same size, weight, power and cost budget, while also needing to fit in a compact in wearable form factor. And it’s not just this matter of squeezing everything into a tight budget, each element of the system has to be compatible with all the others.”

The second thing to understand is that the team deeply believes in prototyping, and so it has a bunch of experimental research prototypes in a lab in Redmond, Washington. Each prototype tackles one aspect of the visual Turing test. Each bulky headset gives the team a glimpse at how things could be made less bulky in the future. It’s where engineering and science collides, Lanman said.

Meta’s DSR worked to tackle these challenges with an extensive series of prototypes. Each prototype is designed to push the boundaries of VR technology and design, and is put to rigorous user studies to assess progress toward passing the visual Turing test.

DSR experienced its first major breakthrough with varifocal technology in 2017 with a research prototype called Half Dome Zero. They used this prototype to run a first-of-its-kind user study, which validated that varifocal would be mission critical to delivering more visual comfort in future VR.

Since this pivotal result, the team has gone on to apply this same rigorous prototyping process across the entire DSR portfolio, pushing the limits of retinal resolution, distortion, and high-dynamic range.

“The concept is very promising. But right now, it’s only a concept with no fully functional headset yet built to conclusively prove out this architecture. If it does pan out, though, it will be a game changer for the VR visual experience,” Abrash said.

“We’re exploring new ground to how physical systems work and how we perceive the world,” Zuckerberg said. “I think that augmented mixed and virtual reality are these are important technologies, and we’re starting to see them come to life. And if we can make progress on the kinds of advances that we’ve been talking about here, then that’s going to lead to a future where computing is built and centered more around people and how we experience the world. And that’s going to be better than any of the computing platforms that we have today.”

I asked Zuckerberg if a prediction I heard from Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games will come true. Sweeney predicted that if VR/AR make enough progress to give us the equivalent of 120-inch screens in front of our eyes, we wouldn’t need TVs or other displays in the future.

“I’ve talked a lot about how, in the future, a lot of the physical objects that we have won’t actually need to exist as physical objects anymore,” Zuckerberg said. “Screens are a good example. If you have a good mixed-reality headset, or augmented reality glasses, that screen or TV that is on your wall could just be a hologram in the future. There’s no need that it needs to actually be a physical thing that is way more expensive.”

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Virtual reality (VR) technology is a growing force beyond entertainment and an important tool in education, science, commerce, manufacturing, and more. Learn the basics and the latest from experts about how VR impacts your world.

Virtual reality is the use of computer technology to create simulated environments. Virtual reality places the user inside a three-dimensional experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed in and interact with 3D worlds.

Simulation of human senses—all five of them—transforms a computer into a vehicle into new worlds. The only limitation to a superb VR experience is computing power and content availability.

“We’ve only just begun the journey into mass-produced consumer headsets, used by businesses to present proposals and products to clients. AR is already popular in architecture and development, and not just with private developers. Local authorities and councils use this technology for town planning and sustainable development. AR doesn’t require a headset at this stage, so it’s extremely accessible, but I’d like to see AR and VR together in a headset in the future as this currently isn’t possible.”

All three types of VR, from non-immersive, semi-immersive, full immersive or a mixture of them, are also referred to as extended reality (XR). Three types of virtual reality experiences provide different levels of computer-generated simulation.

The three main VR categories are the following:Non-Immersive Virtual Reality: This category is often overlooked as VR simply because it’s so common. Non-immersive VR technology features a computer-generated virtual environment where the user simultaneously remains aware and controlled by their physical environment. Video games are a prime example of non-immersive VR.

Semi-Immersive Virtual Reality: This type of VR provides an experience partially based in a virtual environment. This type of VR makes sense for educational and training purposes with graphical computing and large projector systems, such as flight simulators for pilot trainees.

Fully Immersive Virtual Reality: Right now, there are no completely immersive VR technologies, but advances are so swift that they may be right around the corner. This type of VR generates the most realistic simulation experience, from sight to sound to sometimes even olfactory sensations. Car racing games are an example of immersive virtual reality that gives the user the sensation of speed and driving skills. Developed for gaming and other entertainment purposes, VR use in other sectors is increasing.

Virtual reality (VR) is an all-enveloping artificial and fully immersive experience that obscures the natural world. Augmented reality (AR) enhances users’ real-world views with digital overlays that incorporate artificial objects.

VR creates synthetic environments through sensory stimuli. Users’ actions impact, at least partially, what occurs in the computer-generated environment. Digital environments reflect real places and exist apart from current physical reality.

In AR, the real world is viewed directly or via a device such as a camera to create a visual and adds to that vision with computer-generated inputs such as still graphics, audio or video. AR is different from VR because it adds to the real-world experience rather than creating a new experience from scratch.

The VR process combines hardware and software to create immersive experiences that “fool” the eye and brain. Hardware supports sensory stimulation and simulation such as sounds, touch, smell or heat intensity, while software creates the rendered virtual environment.

Immersive experience creation mimics how the eye and brain form visuals. Human eyes are about three inches apart and therefore form two slightly different views. The brain fuses those views to create a sense of depth or stereoscopic display.

VR applications replicate that phenomenon with a pair of exact images from two different perspectives. Instead of a single image covering the entire screen, it shows two identical pictures made to offset the view for each eye. VR technology fools the viewer’s brain into perceiving a sense of depth and accept the illusion of a multi-dimensional image.

VR technology commonly consists of headsets and accessories such as controllers and motion trackers. Driven by proprietary downloadable apps or web-based VR, the technology is accessible via a web browser.

A VR headset is a head-mounted device, such as goggles. A VR headset is a visual screen or display. Headsets often include state-of-the-art sound, eye or head motion-tracking sensors or cameras.

There are three main types of headsets:PC-Based VR Headsets: PC headsets tend to be the highest-priced devices because they offer the most immersive experiences. These headsets are usually cable-tethered from the headset and powered by external hardware. The dedicated display, built-in motion sensors and an external camera tracker offer high-quality sound and image and head tracking for greater realism.

Standalone VR Headsets: All-in-one or standalone VR headsets are wireless, integrated pieces of hardware, such as tablets or phones. Wireless VR headsets are not always standalone. Some systems transmit information wirelessly from consoles or PCs in proximity, and others use wired packs carried in a pocket or clipped to clothing.

Mobile Headsets:These shell devices use lenses that cover a smartphone. The lenses separate the screen to create a stereoscopic image that transforms a smartphone into a VR device. Mobile headsets are relatively inexpensive. Wires are not needed because the phone does the processing. Phones don’t offer the best visual experiences and are underpowered by game console- or PC-based VR. They provide no positional tracking. The generated environment displays from a single point, and it is not possible to look around objects in a scene.

VR accessories are hardware products that facilitate VR technology. New devices are always in development to improve the immersive experience. Today’s accessories include the 3D mouse, optical trackers, wired gloves, motion controllers, bodysuits, treadmills, and even smelling devices.

These are some of the accessories used today in VR:3D Mouse: A 3D mouse is a control and pointing device designed for movement in virtual 3D spaces. 3D mice employ several methods to control 3D movement and 2D pointing, including accelerometers, multi-axis sensors, IR sensors and lights.

Optical Trackers: Visual devices monitors the user’s position. The most common method for VR systems is to use one or multiple fixed video cameras to follow the tracked object or person.

Wired Gloves: This type of device, worn on the hands, is also known as cyber gloves or data gloves. Various sensor technologies capture physical movement data. Like an inertial or magnetic tracking device, a motion tracker attaches to capture the glove’s rotation and global position data. The glove software interprets movement. High-end versions provide haptic feedback or tactile stimulation, allowing a wired glove to be an output device.

Omnidirectional Treadmills (ODTs): This accessory machine gives users the ability to move in any direction physically. ODTs allow users to move freely for a fully immersive experience in VR environments.

Smelling Devices:Smell devices are one of the newer accessories in the VR world. Vaqso, a Tokyo-based company, offers a headset attachment that emits odors to convey the size and shape of a candy bar. The fan-equipped device holds several different smells that can change intensity based on the screen action.

Developers use various software to build VR. They include VR software development kits, visualization software, content management, game engines, social platforms, and training simulators.VR Content Management Systems Software:Companies use this workplace tool to collect, store and analyze VR content in a centralized location.

Napster’s Trudgian points out another software technology that may someday disrupt headsets as a standard in VR: “Non-headset VR is coming, as demonstrated by the likes of Spatial, VRChat and RecRoom.

“These apps allow users or players without headsets to connect to the same environment and interact with one another. Adding support for non-headset users serves virtual worlds well by adding a user base on universally accessible devices and platforms. In theory, if a virtual world is not reliant on headset-only users, it can expand in size tremendously; the amount of people who have access to a web browser or smartphone is far greater than that of any headset.”

VR strives to emulate reality, so audio is vital role to creating credible experiences. Audio and visuals work together to add presence and space to the environment. Audio cues are also crucial for guiding users through their digital experience.

Convincing VR applications require more than graphics alone. Hearing and vision are also central to a person’s perception of space. People react more rapidly to audio cues than to visual indicators. To produce truly immersive virtual reality experiences, precise environmental noise and sounds as well as accurate spatial characteristics are required.

People hear in three dimensions. They can discern the direction sound comes from and the rough distance from the sound source. Simulation of aural sense delivers a more authentic multi-dimensional experience and is known as biaural or spatial audio.

Biaural or spatial audio emulates how human hearing functions. People have ears on both sides of the head and our brains adjust the sound accordingly. Sounds emanating from the right of the head reach the user’s ear with a time delay, and vice versa. We, therefore, perceive sound as if positioned at a specific point in three-dimensional space.

Binaural and spatial audio lend a powerful sense of presence to any virtual world. To experience the binaural audio elements that comprise a VR experience, put on your best headphones and play around with this audio infographic published by The Verge.

“This change will be driven by the significant opportunity ahead of a VR creator economy. New tools created for developers and anyone interested in creating VR content are necessary. Remember when YouTube started? Most people weren’t making and sharing videos, and now anyone can quickly become a video creator.”

“Today, most people don’t have a VR headset. Once the hardware is simplified and usage is more widespread, we’ll see the same phenomenon. Eventually, wearables like smart glasses of some type will replace smartphones. These wearables will allow even more uses for both VR and AR because users won’t need specialized hardware but will take advantage of the same device they use to communicate, search and interact with the world around them.”

“VR will provide creators and storytellers the unique ability to put users in other people’s shoes. This empathetic process has business implications for corporate training, especially in support of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

VR technology is associated with gaming, but it is used to support sales, facilitate learning, simulate travel, communicate, and more. Due to the pandemic, remote work, social interaction and virtual travel have increased VR use.

VR has impacted businesses ranging from medicine to tourism and is a cornerstone of many corporate digital transformation strategies. For example, according to a November 2020 Statista report estimates for business investments in the U.S. industrial maintenance and training are forecast to hit $4.1 billion in 2024.

Futurist Baron says: “There will be significant opportunities for businesses to use VR both within their companies and with potential and existing customers.”

Baron offers her insights into these top use cases:Training: One of the most obvious is the use of VR in employee training. While this currently requires the use of a headset, it can also be done onsite or at home. The ability to put an employee in other people’s shoes (whether those of a co-worker or customer) delivers a unique experience that isn’t feasible otherwise. As the technology improves, this will become a valuable tool in all corporate training, including situations that require complex decision-making. VR makes sense in education. Imagine an immersive experience in history or science, for example. As technology progresses and our attention spans decrease, we will continue to expect well-rounded experiences when learning anything new.

Travel: Hotels can take you inside their property, so you know what to expect. VR can be beneficial for high-end travel (e.g., honeymoons or luxury resorts). For the user, they’d see (and feel) the location from their perspective instead of watching an online video or looking at 2D photos.

Real Estate: Developers can move beyond 3D models to simulate life inside their new development. VR would work both for homes and commercial spaces. Also, co-working spaces can use VR to put the prospective tenant inside the space before you join.

Healthcare: There are many uses for healthcare practitioners, researchers and patients. Imagine using VR to help patients with disorders such as anxiety or anorexia. It would be invaluable in medical school to help students learn how to deal with situations that may arise when they become doctors (empathy training, for example). VR is already in use for surgical training.

Retail: Retailers can help potential consumers put themselves in situations where they can “try on” clothes or objects and get a sense of how they interact with an environment. For example, a bride-to-be could try a wedding dress and place it in an actual wedding environment. VR is different from AR, where you stay in your current reality.

Military: VR is already a valuable tool in simulations for combat, confrontations and the like. It can replace expensive and sometimes dangerous real-life exercises. The ability to change scenarios makes it attractive for all branches of the military and the defense industry.

Entertainment: The ability to provide immersive experiences will transform entertainment. Gaming and Hollywood will increasingly provide users and viewers with the ability to go from passive to active. Consumers will interact with stories in a highly personalized way (should they wish to). The ability to choose your own POV in a game or movie will continue to provide new forms of engagement.

Other use cases include:Architecture: VR can render different levels of detail that are important in early-stage design. Architects can create an immersive experience to visualize massing and spatial relationships. Other uses can show how light will affect the proposed space, based on window placement.

Art: VR as a tool for fine art is a staple for artists who aim to push limits. Multimedia artists all over the world are already deeply involved in immersive experiential art forms. Laurie Anderson, a pioneer since the 1970s, was awarded the 74th Venice International Film Festival for her work, The Chalkroom.

Aviation: Realistic cockpits with VR technology are used to train commercial pilots in training programs incorporating live instruction with virtual flight.

Aerospace: Lockheed Martin builds its F-35 plane with virtual reality technology. In addition to design, engineers now use VR glasses to inspect planes. VR enables engineers to work with up to 96 percent accuracy at a 30 percent faster rate.

Data Visualization: Engineering and scientific data visualization have profited for years from VR. New display technology has aroused interest in everything from weather models to molecular visualization.

Dining: Project Nourished replicates eating by manipulating taste, smell, vision, sound, and touch. People experience the virtual as a gourmet meal. The process uses a VR headset, an aroma diffuser, a system that emulates chewing sounds, a rotating utensil and tasteless, 3D-printed food. The project aims to maximize the practical and therapeutic qualities of beverages, medicine and food while limiting natural resource use.

Education: The use of traditional instruction mediums and textbooks is often ineffective for students with special needs. With the introduction of VR, students have become more responsive and engaged. At Charlton Park Academy in London, teachers use immersive technology to address their students’ unique needs better.

Fashion: You can find Dior’s VR store on its French website. The brand offers shoppers a 3D, 360-degree e-commerce experience. Users virtually browse the store’s offerings, zoom in on preferred items and purchase them online.

Gaming: Say “virtual reality,” and gaming is the application people think of first. According to the Entertainment Software Association figures reported in March 2020, 73 percent of the 169 million gamers in the U.S. reported owning a gamin console, while 29 percent said they had a VR capable system.

Manufacturing: Designers and engineers easily experiment with the build and look of vehicles before commissioning expensive prototypes with VR. Brands such as Jaguar and BMW use the technology for early design and engineering reviews. Virtual reality saves the car industry millions by reducing the number of prototypes built per vehicle line.

Journalism: Immersive journalism allows the first-person experience of events or situations described in documentary films and news reports. The Weather Channel uses mixed reality to help communicate everything from wildfires to tornados to flooding.

Law Enforcement: With the advent of VR goggles, virtual reality training has been a boon for law enforcement training. Incident training is realistic and helps prepare officers for everyday situations.

Marketing and Advertising: Virtual reality for marketing allows organizations to bridge the gap between experience and action. VR changes the dynamic between consumers and brands since people seek VR experiences, such as those of Toms Shoes and The North Face.

Museums: Through a mobile phone, projector, headset or web browser, visitors experience locations that would have been unreachable in the recent past. At the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, a permanent VR installation allows visitors to explore different animal species and their links. The exhibit simulates real experiences of interacting or observing animals in their natural habitats.

Religion: There’s even an app to experience God. Believe VR and The Virtual Reality Church make it possible for people to worship in depth wherever they are. VR Church became extremely popular during pandemic shutdowns.

Social Media: VR allows people to make connections in a more meaningful way. VRChat gives the power of creation to its community with a wide selection of social VR experiences. Users can hang out, play and chat with spatialized 3D audio, multiplayer VR games, virtual space stations, and expressive lip-synced avatars.

Sports: VR is a training aid in many sports such as cycling, skiing, golf and gymnastics. At least three college programs—Auburn University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Arkansas—and multiple NFL teams use virtual reality systems.

VR is always improving due to technology refinements, and the latest “category killers” change rapidly. Top-of-the-pack players include ongoing favorites from Oculus, HTC, Sony and Valve.

Here are some of the benefits of VR:Practical Training: VR is a safe way to simulate dangerous situations for training purposes. Firefighters, pilots, astronauts and police can learn in a controlled environment before going into the field. Immersive experience narrows timeframes so trainees can more quickly become professionals.

“Tryout” Capability: Shoppers’s remorse may become a thing of the past with VR. You can use virtual reality to furnish your home, test-drive a car or try on wedding bands without leaving home.

VR has some disadvantages despite its appealing sense of engagement, including technical issues, the potential for addiction, loss of human connection, and expense. It’s possible to mitigate some problems, but others are a fixed part of the VR experience.

Here are some VR disadvantages:Addiction: Some people become addicted to the VR experience in gaming and social media applications. People can assume different identifies, which can be addictive and cause social, psychological and biological issues.

Health Problems: Extensive use of VR can create a loss of spatial awareness, nausea, dizziness, disorientation and nausea, also known as simulator sickness.

Screen Door Effect: When you use a headset, the display is within inches of your eyes. That means you see pixels or the spaces between them, no matter how excellent the display resolution may be. This mesh-like effect can irritate some users. Newer headsets have improved but not eliminated the issue.

Loss of Human Connections: When you rely on virtual connections rather than real-life social interactions, trouble may result. Over-reliance on VR can lead to disassociation or depression.

Businesses differentiate themselves through technological hybrids to interest consumers in innovations, mainly through VR and AR applications. Nowhere is this more evident than in shopping and retail.

Virtual reality in retail is still in its infancy. According to a 2018 VR in Retail and Marketing report from ABI Research, VR technology in the retail and marketing sectors are on track to generate $1.8 billion by 2022. Virtual reality in retail helps vendors plan, design, research and engage customers. The technology offers companies a strong competitive advantage by keeping up to date with current patterns and trends, like 3D eCommerce.

If you have been looking to add VR to your in-store customer shopping experience but didn’t know where to start, we can help. 3D Cloud by Marxent’s Virtual Reality shopping solution offers white-glove service and an easy turnkey implementation informed by years of experience and hundreds of VR installations. Our unique Virtual Reality approach pairs the easy-to-use 3D Cloud-powered 3D Room Planner with a Virtual Reality experience that wows customers, supercharges sales, and slashes returns.

After creating a custom floor plan, shoppers can explore the space they built in VR mode with our 360° Panoramas that render in under two minutes. Featuring unmatched industry realism, 360° Panoramas build customer confidence and can be used for designer presentations, social media marketing, or a website gallery.