Jun 20, 2022 - Technology

Meta pursues VR breakthroughs in its labs

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg tries on the company's Holocake 2 prototype headset.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg tries on the company's Holocake 2 prototype headset. Photo: Meta

Mark Zuckerberg is showing off several prototype mixed reality headsets he says are key to the metaverse future he envisions.

Why it matters: Today's virtual and augmented reality headsets are bulky and lack the comfort, precision and battery life that are needed for the technology to have mainstream appeal.

Meeting with reporters last week, Zuckerberg showed off prototypes that each improve on one limitation of today's optics. One offers resolution approaching 20/20 vision, while another offers a broader range of colors and another reduces distortion using varifocal lenses to make it easier to wear longer.

  • Holocake 2 is the thinnest and lightest mixed reality prototype that Meta has built, using optical folding (aka pancake optics) and replacing the traditional curved lens with a flat holographic lens.
  • Butterscotch offers a retinal resolution, that is enough detail to where the eye can't see any distinct pixels. That also means allowing roughly 20/20 vision.
  • Starburst is a headset that focuses on displaying a high dynamic range, the difference between the brightest and darkest areas.

The big picture: Putting all of these attributes together is key to what Zuckerberg calls the virtual Turing test, the point at which the eyes can naturally assume the virtual world is real.

Between the lines: All the prototypes were still rough around the edges and address one current limitation apiece. And Meta isn't committing to putting any of these concepts into a shipping product any time soon. It has said to expect a high-end headset, codenamed Project Cambria, later this year.

Go deeper: Read our "Pieces of the Metaverse" deep dive.

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