Virtual Reality is no longer niche. From education to healthcare, VR applications are evolving fast. However, with six out of every 10 people wearing glasses or contact lenses, many viewers are finding VR more headache-inducing than eye-opening. Enter optometrist James Kim.
With over 10 years of industry experience, Kim knows a thing or two about sight. He also has a vision for accessible VR that's setting the Kickstarter community alight.
As founder and CEO of Noonbit Inc, Kim is the mastermind behind Nunulo VR. Nunulo means 'through the eyes' in Korean. It's a name well-suited to the first VR device that lets users adjust the lenses to suit their vision and, in a field where the long, short and otherwise sighted have been largely ignored, it's proving a popular concept. So popular in fact that within 14 hours of launching on Kickstarter in July, Nunulo VR smashed its funding goal of $15,000 and support shows no sign of slowing.
What's the secret we asked? Distinctive design.
"Other VR devices focus on software and display, while Nunulo's solution caters to the human eye," Kim says. "Television screens have numerous options available to customise the view, such as contrast and brightness. The personal VR device should also be able to adjust to each individual's unique eye condition."
Kim explains that the way we see depends on a number of factors, including age, gender, race and existing optical conditions. Because VR is viewed at such close range, it uses high powered convex lenses for zoom. Popular headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive currently use lenses with a balanced and uniform thickness right the way around, but Nunulo flips this on its head with its 'imbalanced convex lens'.
Nunulo's specially designed lenses come equipped with a cardboard headset and are compatible with any smartphone that has a screen size of between 10–15cm. The micro variations in thickness throughout the Nunulo lenses let users find their own 'sweet spot' to experience all the VR perks with less of the nasty nausea. Plus, because it's not a one-size-fits all model, you get a greater sense of immersion – vital to the VR experience.
Split between Newport Beach in California and Seoul in Korea, Noonbit's eight-strong team of optometrists, opticians, software experts and gaming gurus have already prepared 10 additional ideas for the next gen of lenses and would love to see them incorporated into the likes of Oculus Rift. For Kim, Kickstarter was a great way to raise awareness, but the next step is to attract investors so that the team can research and develop VR vision correction software that will automatically adjust to suit a user's eyes.
"The mysterious experience that people enjoy in Virtual Reality is not only fun, but it's also the expectation around this new communication platform that makes it such an attractive proposition," Kim says. "Now we have the opportunity to make boundless software that can make the platform more comfortable."
At the moment he's after seed funding, but when asked about the future, Kim has his sights set high. "Receiving data wirelessly through the refraction of light in the cornea and the implementation of a VR/AR image in the retina is the future. This device would be so small that it could be applied to glasses and sunglasses," he says. "In the distant future, I believe that it's going to be possible to wirelessly transfer an image directly to the optic nerve."
We think that's a future worth seeing.
At the time of writing, a limited quantity of the Nunulo VR lenses with cardboard headsets was still available on Kickstarter.