Facebook’s new VR headsets project a user’s eyes in 3D

Facebook wants to make the use of virtual reality (VR) less socially isolating by projecting the user’s eyes on the front of virtual reality headsets.

A pioneer of Facebook’s Reality Labs, “Reverse Step VR” is the subject of a new paper that presents how a 3D view of the headset’s eyes can be presented to outside viewers in an accurate way. Upon leaving the laboratory prototype, the result is a granular virtual representation of eyeballs on the two front screens of the headphones.

A summary for the paper argues that this approach “allows for more fluid interactions between people with and without headphones in social or professional contexts.” Research scientist Nathan Matsuda was challenged to experiment with virtual reality headsets when, after a day of wearing one in the office, his colleagues said it was strange that he could not make eye contact during the conversation.

Together with a team of scientists, Matsuda developed virtual reality headphones that contain eye tracking cameras inside to capture and represent the gaze of its user, with the first demonstration of the reverse passthrough, a larger and more crude of the current model, which debuted in 2019.

“My first reaction was that it was kind of a silly idea, at most novelty,” said Michael Abrash, chief scientist at FRL. “But I’m not telling researchers what to do, because you don’t get innovation without the freedom to try new things, and that’s good, because now it’s clear it’s a unique idea with a genuine promise.”

The prototype of the headphones has evolved significantly over the past two years, but a blog post explaining the technology says the research “is clearly still experimental,” citing limitations such as the viewing angle may not be too severe and that the objects are not displayed with a sharp focus unless they are extremely close.

FRL promised to return at the end of this year with a comprehensive update on research and progression of data systems towards the creation of high-quality VR headsets that are “compact, lightweight and portable throughout the day.”

In other tech news, Miami has released a digital testimonial called MiamiCoin.

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