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The holographic image at the heart of the next virtual reality headsets

Researchers have developed holographic glasses that could revolutionize virtual reality. Only 2.5 millimeters thick, they could pave the way for simple, lightweight and comfortable VR glasses that can be worn all day.

One of the main shortcomings of current virtual reality headsets is the size of the devices. They are bulky and heavy, which makes them quite uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. Most use Fresnel lenses, which impose a minimum distance between the eye and the screen and suffer from chromatic aberrations. More and more manufacturers are turning to pancake optics. This allows the creation of thinner devices, but the image is less luminous and the field of vision is smaller.

Nvidia has collaborated with researchers at Stanford University to create a third option that could revolutionize VR headsets and make them comfortable to wear all day. In doing so, they created holographic glasses with a thickness of only 2.5 millimeters and weighing only 60 grams.

A hologram in front of each eye

Their system consists of a waveguide, a spatial light modulator (SLM) and what could be translated as a “geometric phase lens”. It generates three-dimensional holograms in front of each eye, but it can also display two-dimensional images for a stereoscopic display like current virtual reality headsets.

The prototype resembles simple glasses of which one would have changed the glasses. However, it should be noted that it contains only the display and nothing else, and is equipped for the moment with two large, unattractive ribbons that are used to connect it to a computer. It only offers a field of view of 22.8 degrees. However, researchers indicate that it would be quite simple to reach 120 degrees (like current headsets). This technology seems very promising but it is still in its infancy. It will certainly take a few years and several generations of helmets before it arrives on the market.

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