There is an issue with upcoming VR headsets like Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus and HTC Vive you may not have thought about yet: The display is right in front of your eyes, thus they cannot focus on different depths. Researchers in the Stanford Computational Imaging Group have found a solution, already developed in a prototype VR headset.

There are quite some reasons why people experience motion-sickness after playing around with VR headsets. One of them might be the fact that the depth of field is limited: According to Gordon Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electical engineering at Stanfort, we see slightly different perspecitves of the same 3D scene at different positions of our eye’s pupil in real life. Furthermore, we always focus on different levels of depths.

gordon wetzstein

As a result, your brain gets into a conflict when it combines what your eyes see on the VR screen, because it does not match the visual cues your eyes actually focus on (“vergence”). This phenomenon can be compared to the sickness some people experience when reading a book while driving in a car: Your eyes stay fixed on the text, no matter how the car moves. Due to your sense of gravity there is a mismatch between the cues of what you see and what you feel, which ultimately leads to motion-sickness.

VR development still in its beginnings

The researchers from Stanford have created a prototype for a next-generation (yeah, already) virtual reality headset that uses light-field technology to create a natural 3D view. The new technology, developed by Wetzstein along with Fu-Chung Huang and Kevin Chen, creates some type of hologram for each eye. The light field creates multiple, slightly different perspectives over different parts of the same pupil. Thus you can focus on different levels of depths.

This, however, shows that virtual reality is still in an early stage of development and will need some time to become more and more realistic. But we are already getting really close, it looks like. Wetzstein explains their new discovery as a virtual window which ideally looks the same as the real world.

How much do you care about all this? Will you buy a first generation VR headset anyways?