[VR] Next level hardware

At the moment the top 3 VR headsets on the consumer markets are:

Low-End: Oculus Quest 2
Medium-End: HP Reverb G2
High-End: Valve Index

In the previous blog the road to better VR specs I discussed the next steps for VR headsets. These steps are made by some niche players and companies that make professional VR headsets.

But what is not the next step, but the next level? In this blog we touch the various topics of the next level of virtual immersion with video and links to further reading.

Graphics

Graphics are the core of any VR experience. When your eyes see pixels, a blurry image or black that is not black, the image is not very convincing. There are of course many other aspects for immersion (like lenses or sensors), but we start with computer graphics.

Graphics do not start on the screen, but on the GPU (Graphical Processing Unit). Luckily for the future of VR there is a lot of going in this market. High demanding gamers with deep pockets lead to fierce competition between Nvidia and AMD. The first recently introduced the GeForce RTX 3080 and the latter the Radeon RX 6800. Both bring more power en energy efficiency. This doesn’t only allow playing games at 4K at 60 fps easily, but also improves the quality of the graphics.

Ray-tracing

One of the improvements is ray-tracing. This calculates the light and its reflections on objects:

Supersampling

Not only ray-tracing, the new GPU’s also support supersampling. With this technique the GPU renders the entire image at a higher resolution than the target display. This leads to bigger clarity. Now Nvidia introduced supersampling with a variable rate especially for VR:

The Variable Rate Supersampling (VRSS) is a new technique to improve image quality in VR games. It uses GPU to dynamically supersample the center of the display, where the eye is generally focused on. It can supersample up eight times the target display.

Refresh rate

Another possibility of new GPU’s is to play at higher refresh rates. The current refresh rate for the Oculus Quest is 72 Hz and the Quest 2 upgrades this to 90 Hz.

The new graphics processors and screens allow much higher resolution. Especially for VR this leads to smoother motion and transitions. It removes the so-called screen-door effect. There are already monitors that have a refresh rate of 360Hz:

As last part on graphics we discuss the light field. With light field you can calculate the light from all the directions. This gives a feeling of 3d space. Though the idea is already old (The term was already introduced by Andrey Gershun in 1936), the implementations are still in prototype phase:

Displays

Better graphics are nothing without better screens. The new GPU’s are made for 4k and higher so the displays should support this as well.

Pixels per Inch

For VR displays the PPD (Pixels Per Degree) and PPI (Pixels Per Inch) are the most important specs for the clarity. The original Quest on Kickstarter had 185 PPI. The HP Reverb has already a PPI of 1056 PPI. But for humans, in order not to notice the pixels anymore, it must be more than 10 times as high.

Samsung and Stanford University are now working on a display with a 10.000 PPI:

HDR

There are other aspects of displays that are also important. For example the color rendering. Traditional television use standard dynamic range, but with the high dynamic range the screens bring an experience that comes closer to the dynamic range of our eyes.

Field of View

The field of view is what we can observe with our own eyes:

Humans have a slightly over 210-degree forward-facing horizontal arc of their visual field. StarVR is a headset that is close to field of view. But it is rather pricey (twice the high-end Valve) and the screen is rather wide. Facebook VR researchers are looking for a way around this.

Volumetric VR

Everyone who watched a 360-degree video on YouTube VR knows its highly enhances immersion, but it doesn’t feel natural. To make it natural we need volumetric video’s:

“Volumetric video is instead about capturing how light exists in the physical world, and displaying it so VR users can move their heads around naturally. That means you’ll be able to look around something in a video because that extra light (and geometry) data has been captured from multiple viewpoints.”

See complete article:

Go to the next level (part 2)

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