Virtual reality headsets are expected to become very popular in the coming years. IMAX is even opening up theaters dedicated to this medium. A problem is that VR headsets are optimized for people with perfect vision, so those that wear glasses can have a lot of discomfort during long VR sessions.
The screen in standard virtual reality headsets is stationary and quite close to the eyes. This can create a lot of strain on the eyes, particularly in older folks with presbyopia. Moreover, since the headsets always force the user to focus at one distance, there isn’t the constant natural change in focus that we experience in real live. Other common eye conditions can also make VR a less than pleasant experience. Researchers at Stanford University and Dartmouth College have been working on creating an adaptive virtual reality viewer that can tune itself to the visual needs of whoever is using it.
The team developed “optocomputational” technologies that utilize eye-tracking, focus-tunable liquid lenses, and moving displays, to give everyone, including people that have common refractive vision disorders, a more natural way of experiencing virtual reality. The researchers believe this technology points to “the possibility of creating a computing platform in which some users may experience better quality vision in the virtual world than in the real one.”
The system tracks where the person is looking within the virtual scene and adjusts the optics to compensate for their eyes and what they’re looking at. A study involving 173 people between 21 and 64 years old had folks try out the new system, demonstrating an overall improvement in the VR experience for many with different vision abilities.
Study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Optimizing virtual reality for all users through gaze-contingent and adaptive focus displays…
Image: A benchtop setup designed to incorporate adaptive focus via focus-tunable lenses and an autorefractor to record accommodation. A translation stage adjusts intereye separation, and NIR/visible light beam splitters allow for simultaneous stimulus presentation and accommodation measurement. Credit: PNAS