Future of Artificial Reality
By 2022 we will have: Eye-tracking, Face-tracking, Hand-tracking, Inside-out tracking, External body-tracking, 140 degrees field of view, 4k display resolution per eye, Personalized positional audio, Varifocal display, allowing the user to focus on different distances, Foveated rendering, reducing the number of pixels needed to be rendered by a factor of at least 10.
The hardware is made by HTC, best known for its phones, but the underlying technology is made by Valve, which makes very popular platforms for video games. It’s a virtual reality (VR) headset. When you wear it, you seem to be immersed in a computer-generated world. It’s like living inside a really realistic video game.
It’s got a couple of controllers you hold in your hands that actually let your hands show up in the virtual world, letting you wave at passing objects or shoot a gun or whatever. A developer version will be available later this spring, and normal people will be able to buy it in stores by the end of the year, the company says. No word on price.
Oculus was an independent company working on VR technology until Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg developed a strong interest in the company and technology. Facebook bought it for $2 billion about a year ago. It was the first VR headset that showed off how amazingly realistic this technology could be. Some early versions caused people to get nauseated or disoriented, although this seems to have gotten a lot better with the most recent prototype. The latest development kit, which is a version for developers to build apps with, is available for $350. It’s expected to go on sale later this year and cost a few hundred bucks.
Samsung makes the hardware, but the VR experience is powered by Oculus. It’s a full virtual reality headset, but it uses a Samsung smartphone instead of a computer to power the display. It’s the only one of these products that you can actually buy today. You put the smartphone right in the headset, so you don’t need to be tethered to some kind of computer with wires as you do with most of these other products. It’s got pretty impressive resolution. It doesn’t have full positional tracking like the Oculus Rift. What that means is, while it can tell which direction you’re looking in, it can’t tell if you lean forward or poke your head around an object.
Microsoft has been working on the Holo Lens in a secret lab right in Redmond, Washington, since 2010. The the goggles are translucent, some apps totally immerse you in a computer generated world, just like VR. But in a lot of apps, most of what you see is the real world, with computer-generated images superimposed on top of it. So it’s more of a blend of reality and fantasy.
Microsoft has built some really cool work-type apps for it. For instance, it built an app with NASA that will let scientists walk around inside a 360-degree version of the Martian surface, constructed of pictures from the Mars Rover. Plus, Microsoft is promising that it will be part of the broader Windows 10 platform, so regular Windows developers will eventually be able to build apps for it.
Magic Leap is a startup run by a colorful character named Rony Abovitz. It just got an investment of $542 million led by Google and featuring other investors like Marc Andreessen and Qualcomm.
What does it do? It’s an augmented reality product, apparently similar to HoloLens. Magic Leap says it’s developed new technology that projects images directly into each eyeball. This is supposed to eliminate the nausea that some people feel with VR headsets.
The company is so secretive, we don’t know what the actual product will look like or when it will be out. It will cost in the same price range as other consumer electronics devices.
It’s Sony’s full virtual reality headset with an emphasis on games. Sony has been in the console game business for almost 20 years, and many of the best games are available for Sony consoles.
It will work with the PlayStation 4 and developers will presumably be making new PS4 games for it.