Woman wearing a virtual reality headset

3D display for VR and AR devices reduces eye fatigue, research claims

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Researchers are develop a new 3D display which could prevent eye fatigue, a common problem that arises from virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) displays.

While VR headsets are becoming increasingly more affordable and have extensive applications in transforming gaming, education, healthcare and other sectors, there remain a number of practical issues that must be resolved before the technology can prove as good as real-world experience.

Aside from the low-resolution graphics typical of a VR experience, one of the biggest problems facing VR is eye fatigue, which makes the headsets uncomfortable to use for a significant period of time. This is also a complication of AR glasses.

VR and AR displays available today tend to present two 2D images in a configuration which gives the combined impression of a 3D scene. This causes vergence-accommodation conflict, which makes it harder for the user to fuse the images over time. After a period of wearing them, it causes eye fatigue.

“We want to replace currently used AR and VR optical display modules with our 3D display to get rid of eye fatigue problems,” said Professor Liang Gao, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Our method could lead to a new generation of 3D displays that can be integrated into any type of AR glasses or VR headset.”

The new display module is just 1” x 2” in size and works by mimicking the depth cues our eyes are accustomed to in the real world through an approach called optical mapping. A digital display is divided into panels that each displays a 2D picture. The centres of the images are aligned, while the images are shifted to different depths. An algorithm that blends the images helps to create the impression of a continuous 3D image.

Diagram to show structure of 3D display

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Image credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Illinois researchers used this approach with an organic LED display, which offers ultra-high resolution. This allowed each panel to create a clear image.

The researchers tested the device, using it to display a black and white scene of parked cars, and found that the new display was able to produce focal cues that create depth perception similarly to how humans perceive depth in the real world. The researchers say that the technique could also be used to produce colour images with reduced resolution.

Next, they will work to reduce the system’s size, weight and power consumption, in order to increase their suitability for VR headsets and AR glasses.

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