Microsoft is one of the most advanced XR headset manufacturers in the world but is currently stuck with advising content creators (in its developer guide) to place virtual content between 1.25m and 5m away from the user to ensure a comfortable mixed reality experience. There has to be a better way if XR is going to deliver on its potential to mix virtual and real worlds in truly useful and believable ways.
There are two main issues, inherent within today’s technologies, that need to be addressed: Vergence accommodation conflict (VAC) and focal rivalry.
VAC is the decoupling of the natural vergence and accommodation responses in the eyes. As objects get closer our eyes naturally turn inwards to triangulate with the object they are looking at, the natural response to this convergence is to stimulate the lenses in our eyes to change focus. Todays headsets decouple this natural response because the lenses in the headset are set at a fixed focal distance. Our eyes are simply not fooled by the clever software manipulation of the image. The focal length within the system is fixed and our eyes know it.
Yes we can adapt to it for short periods but that is missing the point; until we stimulate the eyes natural accommodative response virtual content will never feel natural or fully integrated into a mixed reality world.
The other XR challenge, focal rivalry, happens between real and virtual content When looking at objects in current systems our eyes must choose between seeing virtual or real content clearly. This is very limiting if you want real and virtual content to be viewed convincingly together. Software and hardware can take us so far but a dynamic optical interface holds the key to unlocking both these limitations.
To deliver a genuine mixed reality experience we have to deal with both the vergence accommodation conflict and focal rivalry. Dealing with VAC re-engages our natural visual system to allow us to position virtual content convincingly anywhere in 3D space and addressing focal rivalry allows you to integrate that virtual content in the real world without any visual limitations.
Adlens uses SEE (stimulated eye engagement) technology to activate the eyes natural accommodative response and we are designing lens systems that will overcome focal rivalry. These systems will use Dynamic Focal Integration (DFI) to place virtual content sharply and believably anywhere in real space
Rather than working around the issue by avoiding content that’s too close for comfort, dynamic lens systems will enable developers to bring content comfortably and believably within arms reach, creating a genuinely more immersive user experience that you can see clearly and get your hands on.
By embracing the way we see more deeply we hope to unleash content developers to create without restraints.
Microsoft says the new HoloLens 2 will provide a “far more immersive, instinctual and comfortable experience for first-line workers whose hands are occupied by physical tasks.” But unless fundamental issues like VAC and the focal rivalry are addressed, it will be many years before XR mixed reality headsets unlock their real potential in the workplace or the home.