Stephen Davies looks at four things likely to be in high discussion in a year's time.
Headset manufacturers have to contend with various trade-offs when they come to the designing of their hardware. Not all capabilities can be added together in the same unit, for example, whilst still making the headsets cost effective. This is something that tech companies are working to resolve, however, so what can we expect from virtual reality (VR) headsets for 2019?
Eye tracking technology in VR headsets is able to take advantage of peripheral vision to better serve the human eye with visuals. Because the space directly in front of the eye is where the greatest detail is seen, headsets can display images in greater detail there, and less so toward the edges of peripheral vision. This allows images to be rendered in a way that the eye is much more accustomed to, adjusting the focus of detail depending on where the eye is looking.
This “foveated rendering” method is only possible with eye tracking technology installed within the headset, which is why it is likely to be included in more headsets by the time 2019 rolls around. Eye tracking technology can also fundamentally change the way users interact with objects, reducing the time it takes to complete many common tasks by using the eye to target specific objects.
If you have ever been in a position where you have been able to actually see individual pixels, called the ‘screen door’ effect, then the upcoming crop of headsets will likely be a pleasant experience. The HTC Vive Pro and Samsung Odyssey both weigh in with resolutions of 1440 x 1600, per display. While these resolutions are not quite enough to completely eliminate the pixelation, they are a definite improvement.
Kopin, a display manufacturer, have demonstrated a microdisplay that is capable of a resolution of 2,000 x 2,000 per display. The frame rate of 60 frames per second it currently enjoys may not be as smooth as the 90 frames per second that can be seen on either the Vive or Rift, it may be that higher frame rates at this resolution start to become the norm in 2019.
Foveated rendering is going to prove instrumental to making these resolution and frame rate jumps affordable, because the way images are rendered means that lower cost graphics cards can be used without a drop in quality.
Reverse tracking refers to the way onboard cameras see the world around itself, in order to figure out its position in the world. This method is in direct contrast to the way other headsets work, which require cameras, or lasers, be placed around the room so the exact position of the headset can be determined.
These new generation of headsets do require physical connection to a relatively expensive computer in order to work, but they do represent a huge step onward from the likes of Vive and Rift in terms of convenience.
2019 is likely to see this reverse tracking technology make further advancements, provided the connective cord can be cut and the headset becomes wireless. Microsoft headed up this particular reverse, or inside out, tracking but others are catching up quickly: Google and Facebook both have their own versions, with Google partnering with Lenovo.
There are several approaches to the wireless headset, one of which is making use of a high-powered processing center like a PC or even a powerful console such as the Xbox One X. The way this would work is by broadcasting and receiving large amounts of data to and from the associated VR headset.
A second approach is using a standalone system, which involves placing the processing power either directly on the headset itself or in a pack that would be worn by the user. This approach would be more portable but the first approach could be more cost effective if there already an existing PC / console that could be made use of. VRE run events to show off the capabilities of this equipment. Have a chat with VRE on VR events in the UK.
2019 could well be an interesting year for the world of virtual reality headsets, and with lower cost graphics cards set to allow more functionality we should start seeing more features and technologies sooner rather than later.