by Peter Grad
Facebook said this week it has developed the thinnest virtual reality headset in the world. Although it remains a prototype for now, the device does away with the bulky boxlike headgear commonly associated with virtual reality setups and instead sports the look of a large pair of sunglasses with lenses just under .3 inches thick.
Facebook, which released a report on the prototype Monday, says it developed “a new class of near-eye displays” incorporating holographic components and using a refraction technique that enables compression of light sufficient enough to greatly reduce the size of the device.
Instead of thick refractive eyeglass lenses that must be placed far apart from the display panel, the prototype uses a technique called “polarization-based optical folding” that permits use of thinner lenses and a compressed region between lens and display.
Implementing holography, the headset can create vividly colored, three-dimensional images far superior to graphics produced with LEDs common in todays devices. The prototype currently produces images in shades of green only, but Facebook researchers expect to achieve full color later in the development process.
In the report prepared by Andrew Maimone and Junren Wang of the Facebook Reality Labs, they expanded on the inner workings of the prototype.
“You may be familiar with holographic images seen at a science museum or on your credit card, which appear to be three-dimensional with realistic depth in or out of the page,” they said. “Like these holographic images, our holographic optics are a recording of the interaction of laser light with objects, but in this case the object is a lens rather than a 3-D scene.”