At Display Week in Los Angeles Facebook revealed why its researchers and engineers built a varifocal VR headset. Over the last few years researchers at Facebook’s Reality Labs (formerly known as Oculus Research) developed a series of prototypes designed to solve a fundamental problem facing current VR headset design. The event opened Tuesday with a keynote by Douglas Lanman, who leads the Computational Imaging Team at FRL which developed the prototypes in partnership with eye tracking systems developed by Rob Cavin and Alex Fix as well as wide-field-of-view optics developed by a team led by Jacques Gollier.

The work was first revealed as the Half Dome prototype at Facebook’s recent developer conference, but the presentation during Display Week went much deeper as part of a symposium put together by the world’s preeminent researchers and engineers in display technology. Lanman used the event to explain how and why Facebook engineered this system with moving displays over multiple generations.

It started with a loud monstrosity but was eventually engineered into what we see in Half Dome. The headset actually moves the displays to match the positioning of your eyeballs, and could help with the vergence-accommodation conflict plaguing VR headsets today.

In virtually all consumer VR headsets, the lenses make your eyes focus far away. When objects appear near, there’s a conflict in where the lenses of the headset are focusing your eyes and where they naturally wants to focus.

This can cause eyestrain and limits how long some people want to wear a headset. Here’s how Lanman described the issue in an interview with UploadVR: “Nearly all consumer HMDs present a single fixed focus. Read more from…

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