Stanford VR lightfield

Virtual reality headsets are known to leave some people with headache and nausea within minutes of usage. According to experts, this is because current virtual reality headsets don’t simulate natural 3D images. Assistant Professor Gordon Wetzstein’s new Stanford Computational Imaging Group has developed a headset that creates a more natural virtual reality experience than what is present leading headsets available today.

Researchers in this group have created a next-generation virtual reality headset that uses light-field technology to create a natural, comfortable 3D viewing experience. In most virtual reality headsets – low-cost cardboard ones or expensive ones – there is a conflict between the visual cues eyes focus on and how the brain combines what the two eyes see, called “vergence.” This mismatch causes the motion sickness symptoms that some people experience. The new light-field stereoscope technology – developed by Wetzstein along with researchers Fu-Chung Huang and Kevin Chen – solves this disconnect by creating a sort of hologram for each eye to make the experience more natural. A light field creates multiple, slightly different perspectives over different parts of the same pupil. As a result one can freely focus on different depths in the virtual scene, just as in real life. The headset design incorporates two stacked, transparent LCD displays with a spacer. This prototype was made from off-the-shelf parts and is likely to be a viable solution for mass-market production.

The discomfort with virtual reality headsets is not felt by everyone and many people overcome it after the first few minutes of use. But the approach developed by Stanford researchers could be beneficial for numerous applications including lengthy robotic surgeries, phobia treatment, education, and entertainment.