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New virtual reality display adjusts for differences in vision

clouds-1845517_1920Without their uber-thick glasses, my dad and my stepson would be nearly blind, unable to do most everyday activities. My vision is middling -- fine thanks to my contacts. And my son can spot teeny birds or mile-high airplanes with no correction at all. That's a huge range of vision from just four people in one family. Scale that up to all of humanity, and you've got a broad spectrum of visual acuities.

Needless to say, given differences in people's eyesight, virtual reality devices don't work well for everyone. Now, though, as shown in a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of Stanford researchers is working to change that.

"It's important because people who are nearsighted, farsighted or presbyopic - these three groups alone - they account for more than 50 percent of the U.S. population," said Robert Konrad, a graduate student in electrical engineering at Stanford, who was quoted in a Stanford News release. "The point is that we can essentially try to tune this in to every individual person to give each person the best experience."

The release explains:

The problem that the researchers set out to solve is that the display screens on VR headsets don't let our eyes focus naturally. In real life, once our eyes focus on a point everything else blurs into the background. VR makes focusing more difficult because the display is fixed at a certain point relative to our eyes. This eyestrain can cause discomfort or headaches.


The researchers are testing hardware and software fixes designed to change the focal plane of a VR display. They call this technology adaptive focus display.

Although the technology is still in the prototype stage, researchers are hopeful it is is a step toward personalizing VR.

"We hope our research findings will guide these developments in the industry," said Gordon Wetzstein, PhD, assistant professor of electrical engineering and senior author of the study.

Previously: New Stanford-developed technology bypasses "virtual reality sickness"
Photo by StanfordMedicineStaff

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