Anyone who has worn a Vive or Oculus Rift can't deny that it’s an exhilarating experience, but when you take a closer look, the technology behind VR reveals itself to be quite immature. Particularly, the image quality is consistently mediocre to bad, but now there is hope on the horizon.
Better VR displays: Pimax unveils a headset with 8K resolution
Oculus and Vive both have an identical resolution: 1080 x 1200 pixels per eye. Even the field of view is pretty much identical in both devices, at roughly 100 degrees. However, the pixel density is not high enough, resulting in thin black lines appearing between the pixels - also known as the screen-door effect. The only remedy is to drastically reduce the space between the individual pixels, ideally in conjunction with a higher resolution. Microsoft’s soon-to-be-released mixed reality headsets increase the resolution to 1440 x 1440 pixels per eye, which, according to my impression at the IFA tech show a few weeks ago, is not enough to prevent the screen-door effect.
Pimax has now introduced VR glasses with two 4K displays (at 3840 x 2160 pixels each). This headset allows for the field of view to be increased to 200 degrees, which is nearly equal to the human eye. It kills two birds with one stone: you no longer have the screen-door effect (according to the developer) and you have a much wider field of view, resulting in a purer immersion experience.
There is not enough computational power for 8K VR
But there is a slight problem with such a high resolution: Current PC graphics cards already have their hands full with the Vive or Oculus. Hence, the industry has been saying for a while that a 4K display per eye is not a problem from a technical standpoint, but the required technology in terms of graphics card power to maintain stable operation at 90 frames per second is not yet there. Pimax actually has to use some tricks so that one of the fastest graphics cards currently available can power the 8K headset. Who are these headsets made for anyway?
Brainwarp is the name of the technology that rotationally calculates the images per eye at a high frequency, but it is unclear if this technology will actually achieve the desired immersion effect. For us mere mortals, an 8K headset is currently something that is a rather pie-in-the-sky concept - primarily as far as the rendering PCs are concerned.
LG wants to avoid the screen-door effect
High resolution displays are not even a good choice for standalone VR glasses, because they also lack computational power. A development by LG proves even more interesting: One patent shows an optical filter in the VR lens system that diffuses the light in such a way that the screen-door lines simply disappear. It’s unclear whether LG is causing blurs or if it truly and fully prevents the effect.
Technical development and content
The technical development of displays is indisputably important. However, a higher display resolution is currently not the crucial line of development for VR. The VR industry would currently be better advised to invest in enjoyable content. Vive hopefully has access to HTC’s newly-acquired cash and decide how to make best use of it. In fact, the recently announced PC VR titles give us some hope. Until an 8K headset becomes ergonomically wearable, we can still wait a while, and graphics cards will definitely be ready in four years. Until then, I’d rather play a good VR game or immerse myself into new VR worlds with my rock-solid gaming PC and look forward to the fact that VR will have reached a whole new level in a few years. Then I would gladly jump into 8K.
In your opinion, what is VR’s greatest problem? Let’s discuss in the comments below!