February 14, 2017
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Putting on and using a virtual reality headset like the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift can be a bit intimidating for some people, even if they have good eyesight. However, what about people who don’t see quite as well, due age or other factors? This week, Stanford University revealed that a team of researchers at its school is working to create a better VR experience for everyone.

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The team at Stanford’s Computational Imaging Lab, working with with a Dartmouth College scientist, have discovered that when you wear a VR headset, your eyes don’t focus as they do normally. In the real world, our eyes focus on one spot and everything else is blurred in the background. However, when a person puts on a VR headset, its display shows a fixed scene which doesn’t allow you to focus your eyes normally. In addition, many people over the age of 45 have what’s called presbyopia, which may not let them focus on close up objects like ones shown on a VR screen.

To solve this problem, the Stanford research team is building VR prototypes that use what they call adaptive focus display technology. It uses a combination of hardware and software inside the headset so that the display can change its focal plane. One method uses liquid lenses that can change the display inside that lens by turning a dial. The other method involves moving the display inside the headset in combination with eye-tracking technology. The software can figure out where a person is looking in the display and can even take into account whether or not the person is  nearsighted or farsighted.

It’s certainly some very interesting research work, although it sounds like it’s going to be a while before something like Stanford’s prototype is created as a consumer device. Keep in mind we are still in the very early stages of VR technology so we can expect to see lots of improvements in the next few years.

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