VR Headset Prototypes Revealed by Meta Designed to Make VR ‘Indistinguishable From Reality’

The ultimate goal of Meta’s VR gear, according to the company, is to create a comfortable, tiny headset with visual finality that is “indistinguishable from reality.” The business unveiled its latest VR headset prototypes today, claiming that they are steps toward that goal.

Meta has made no secret of the fact that it is pouring tens of billions of dollars into its virtual reality endeavors, with much of it going to long-term R&D via its Reality Labs Research subsidiary.

The business invited a group of journalists to sit down for a look at its newest breakthroughs in VR hardware R&D, presumably in an effort to shed some light on what that money is actually accomplishing.

Getting to the Bar

To begin, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Reality Labs Chief Scientist Michael Abrash explained that the company’s ultimate goal is to create VR technology that satisfies all of the visual requirements for your visual system to accept it as “real.”

Even though today’s VR headsets are incredibly engaging, there’s no denying that what you’re seeing is, well, virtual.

The term ‘visual Turing Test’ is used by Meta’s Reality Labs Research division to signify the bar that must be met to convince your visual system that what’s inside the headset is indeed real. The term is derived from a similar term that refers to the point at which a human can distinguish between another human and an artificial intelligence.

Meta claims that a headset must pass the “visual Turing Test” in order to entirely convince your visual system that what’s inside the headset is genuine.

Four Obstacles

Varifocal, distortion, retina resolution, and HDR are four significant visual obstacles that VR headsets must overcome before passing the visual Turing Test, according to Zuckerberg and Abrash.

Here’s what they mean in a nutshell:

Varifocal: the capacity to focus on variable depths of a virtual scene while using both of the eyes’ primary focus functions (vergence and accommodation)

Distortion: Lenses distort the light that travels through them by nature, resulting in artifacts such as color separation and pupil swim that reveal the lens’ presence.

Retina resolution refers to a display with enough resolution to match or exceed the human eye’s resolving power, with no trace of underlying pixels.

High dynamic range, or HDR, is a term that represents the range of darkness and brightness that humans encounter in the actual world (which almost no display today can properly emulate).

Reality Labs’ Display Systems Research team has created prototypes that serve as proof-of-concepts for potential answers to these problems.


The team created a set of prototypes termed ‘Half Dome’ to address varifocal. The business first experimented with a varifocal design in that series, which employed a mechanically moving display to adjust the distance between the display and the lens, changing the focal depth of the image.

Later, the team switched to a solid-state electronic approach, which resulted in varifocal optics that were much smaller, more dependable, and silent. If you wish to learn more about the Half Dome prototypes, visit this page.

For Lenses, Virtual Reality

Experimenting with lens designs and distortion-correction algorithms that are specific to certain lens designs is a time-consuming procedure, according to Abrash. Novel lenses are difficult to create rapidly, he said, and once created, they must be carefully incorporated into a headset.

To help the Display Systems Research team work more swiftly on the problem, they created a ‘distortion simulator,’ which models lenses (and their accompanying distortion-correction algorithms) in software and emulates a VR headset using a 3DTV.

VR Headset Prototypes Revealed by Meta Designed to Make VR 'Indistinguishable From Reality' -

As a result, the team has been able to iterate on the problem more quickly, with the main challenge being to dynamically correct lens distortions as the eye wanders, rather than just correcting for what is observed while the eye is staring in the lens’ immediate center.

Retina Display Resolution

On the retina resolution front, Meta unveiled Butterscotch, a previously undisclosed headset prototype that achieves a retina resolution of 60 pixels per degree, allowing for 20/20 vision, according to the company.

To do so, they used incredibly pixel-dense displays and decreased the field-of-view to around half the size of Quest 2 in order to concentrate the pixels over a smaller region.

The company also revealed a “hybrid lens” that would “completely resolve” the improved resolution, as well as comparisons between the original Rift, Quest 2, and the Butterscotch prototype through-the-lens.

While there are currently headsets that offer retina resolution, such as Varjo’s VR-3 headset, only a small portion of the vision (27° 27°) achieves the 60 PPD level…

Anything outside of that zone has a PPD of 30 or less. Meta’s Butterscotch prototype ostensibly has 60 PPD across its whole field-of-view, though the company didn’t specify how much resolution is lost as the lens gets closer to the corners.

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