One of the big complaints people have about the current crop of virtual reality glasses, like Oculus for instance, is that the resolution can be disappointing. When you walk around in Oculus’ virtual world, it feels completely immersive, but still a bit cartoonish. If you look closely, you can literally make out the pixels.
But even with a wealth of hardware partners over the years, Urbach says he’d never tried a pair of consumer VR glasses that could effectively trick his brain until he began working with Osterhout Design Group (ODG).
ODG has previously made military night-vision goggles, and enterprise-focused glasses that overlay digital objects onto the real world. But now the company is partnering with OTOY, and will break into the consumer AR/VR market with a model of glasses codenamed “Project Horizon.”
The glasses work by using a pair of micro OLED displays to reflect images into your eyes at 120 frames-per-second. And the quality blew Urbach away, he tells Business Insider.
“When I saw this resolution, it was one of these life-changing things where I said, ‘Wow this is the first time I’m seeing a screen beamed into my eyes where I cannot tell where the pixels begin and end’ … I have better than 20/20 vision, and for me to see that is remarkable. I put it on my mum’s head and even she was like, ‘It’s like magic.’ You just cannot tell it is digitally played on a bunch of pixels.”
While Urbach points out that Project Horizon will feature a higher resolution than virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, the new glasses are best compared to upcoming augmented-reality devices like Microsoft’s Hololens glasses and the mysterious Google-backed Magic Leap.
Urbach says he felt like he was jumping ahead two generations in glasses, and describes the mixture of this new hardware and OTOY’s suite of VR software as a “very powerful combination.”
One limitation, however, is the field-of-view of the glasses, which ODG describes as “over 50 degrees” (far from the 110-degree field-of-view found on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive). That field of view is likely closer to augmented-reality competitors like Microsoft’s Hololens, which Microsoft says is like standing two feet away from a 15-inch monitor.
While high-end virtual reality headsets feature positional tracking thanks to included infrared tracking cameras, there’s no word yet on whether Project Horizon will feature positional tracking (which would sense if you lean forward to look at something closer up) or simply rotational tracking (which senses when you look down, around, or behind you).
And the question remains as to what the primary use will be for Project Horizon, as it’s extremely hard to do both AR and VR without compromising the other.
In both its specs and form factor, Project Horizon appears to be targeting existing augmented-reality devices like Microsoft’s Hololens and Magic Leap. But if the goal is to also compete with high-end virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR, the limited field of view and lack of true positional tracking would make it no match for the high-end VR experiences that exist today. The resolution may be better, but that’s only one piece of the equation, and it sounds like it would only beat the Rift and Vive in certain circumstances, like watching content within a virtual movie theatre, where field of view and positional tracking are arguably less important.
So what will the glasses be best for?
Urbach describes three uses he’s particularly excited about:
- You could replace your PC monitor with a holographic layer in front of you. “You can absolutely see every piece of text,” Urbach says.
- You could feel like you are going to the movies. “We have been testing taking raw frames from our movie studio partners,” he says. “Even taking the same frames projected into IMAX screens … Watching those in the glasses is like being in the movie theatre. For the first time I think you could disrupt those types of experiences.”
- You could overlay images onto the real world in a way that didn’t appear “ghost-like.” We have the ability to do true opacity matching,” he says.
Following the roadmap of ODG’s earlier product launches, it will likely take these glasses at least a year to hit the consumer market. ODG says a price point has not yet been worked out, though it probably will be significantly cheaper than the $2,750 its enterprise model runs.