Michael Abrash reveals long term goals for Oculus

by Ian Hamilton • September 26th, 2015

Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash outlined the long future ahead for virtual reality in both global and personal terms in his keynote address at Oculus Connect 2, telling the developers and enthusiasts in the audience and at home, “these are the good old days.”

His talk outlined the scope of his teams working at Oculus Research — essentially the entirety of human perception — as well as the direction Oculus is headed with VR in the coming years. The slide below outlines the “desired” goal of VR and the kinds of improvements that need to be made long-term. Note that”Ppd” is “pixels per degree”.


In the talk he explored six sensory systems for VR — vision, hearing, smell, haptics, vestibular and taste — the last of which “I am happy to leave to future VR researchers,” he said.  If those six senses are driven perfectly in VR, he said, it would be indistinguishable from the real world.

“Eventually we need to get to a form factor closer to sunglasses with an ideal weight of under 25 grams,” he said. “As long as photons get delivered by cell phone panels viewed through single lenses the form factor can’t get a lot smaller than it is today. Similarly, the current system doesn’t have a lot of head room to increase field of view while maintaining image quality. That means that getting to the next level of VR is going to require a photon delivery system that doesn’t exist yet.”

While Abrash’s talk provided an overview of the challenges ahead, it also provided a more personal look into the philosophy of his division which is working on projects that could yield consumer-facing solutions for VR in four to 10 years time.

“Insight is generally the result of patience, hard work and the willingness to experiment with lots of different ideas across the solution space until the right one falls into place,” Abrash said. “That philosophy is at the core of Oculus Research.”

Now we know more about the goals of the people Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack said were “working on their esoteric, kind of researchy things.”